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.

The Current of Life Cover

Are You Swimming With or Against the Current of Life?

In his book The Cafe on the Edge of the World, John Strelecky tells the story of a man in a hurry.

The man, a busy professional also named John, is stuck in a massive traffic jam en route to his much needed vacation. When he tries to circumvent the roadblock, he gets lost and, running out of fuel, energy, and growing ever hungrier, turns in to a cafe in the middle of nowhere — The Cafe of Questions.

Inside the cafe, John gets a delicious breakfast, but he is also confronted with a series of uncomfortable, oddly well-timed questions, such as “Why are you here?” “Do you fear death?” and “Are you fulfilled?” The waitress, cook, and fellow guests seem to be able to read his mind, and they all make him reflect deeply on the path in life he has chosen thus far.

At one point in the book, the waitress, Casey, sits down in John’s booth and tells him the story of the green sea turtle. She too was once on vacation, she says. Snorkeling off the coast of Hawaii, she spotted a green sea turtle right next to her in the water. This being the first time she ever saw one, she was excited and decided to follow the little guy for a while.

“To my surprise, although he appeared to be moving pretty slowly, sometimes paddling his flippers and other times just floating, I couldn’t keep up with him. I was wearing fins, which gave me propulsion power through the water, and didn’t have on a buoyancy vest or anything that would slow me down. Yet he kept moving farther from me, even though I was trying to keep up. After about ten minutes, he lost me. Tired, disappointed, and a little embarrassed I couldn’t keep up with a turtle, I turned back and snorkeled to shore.”

The next day, Casey returned to the same spot, and again, she found and tried to keep up with another green sea turtle. As she realized that turtle too was about to lose her, she stopped paddling and just floated in the water.

“As I was floating on the surface, I realized something: When the turtle was swimming, it linked its movements to the movements of the water. When a wave was coming at him, he would float, and paddle just enough to hold his position. When the pull of the wave was from behind him though, he’d paddle faster, so that he was using the movement of the water to his advantage. The turtle never fought the waves. Instead, he used them.”

Casey, on the other hand, had been paddling the whole time. This was easy enough when the tide was in her favor, but the more she fought the incoming waves, the less energy she had to capitalize on the outgoing ones later.

“As wave after wave came in and went out, I became more and more fatigued and less effective. Not the turtle though. He kept optimizing his movements with the movements of the water. That’s why he was able to swim faster than I could.”

If you’re like me — and John — at this point in the story, you’ll wonder: That’s great — but what does it have to do with me and my life? Actually, a whole lot, as Casey will explain in a second.


Have you ever felt like you’re fighting an uphill battle? As if for every two steps forward, life somehow pushes you one step back?

It happens to all of us. We do our best to fulfill our duties as responsible adults, and yet, it seems we must fight tooth and nail to make room for the few people and activities that are truly important to us. Why is that?

Well, as the green sea turtle might tell us: “You’re swimming against the current of life. Why don’t you try swimming with it?

After Casey gives him some time to think about the story, John interprets it as follows:

“I think the turtle — the green sea turtle — taught you that if you aren’t in tune with what you want to do, you can waste your energy on lots of other things. Then, when opportunities come your way for what you do want, you might not have the time or strength to spend on them.”

Casey smiles, for she knows the power of grasping an important lesson out of one’s own thinking, and then she adds some more context to John’s insight:

“Each day, there are so many people trying to persuade you to spend your time and energy on them. Think about just your mail and email. If you were to participate in every activity, sale, and service offering you get notified of — you’d have no free time. And that’s just mail and email. Add on all the people who want to capture your attention for television time, online activities, places to eat, travel destinations…You can quickly find yourself living a life that’s just a compilation of what everyone else is doing, or what people want you to be doing.”

Casey then explains that since she observed the turtle moving effortlessly through the water, she has taken a new perspective on life: The incoming waves represent all the people, activities, and things that clamor for a share of her attention, time, or energy but don’t contribute to what she really wants to do in life. In essence, they block her from fulfilling her purpose. Meanwhile, the things and people that support Casey living in sync with her calling are like outgoing waves — they carry her towards her destiny.

That’s the lesson of the green sea turtle, and even though it’s a big one to swallow with his pancakes, John decides to chew on it for a while. I hope you will too.


When Casey leaves John to ponder her story, he asks her for pen and paper. On the back of his napkin, he calculates that if he spends 20 minutes a day flicking through unimportant mail for 60 years, that’s over 300 days of his life — almost an entire year, wasted on one incoming wave.

What about all the others? What about TV commercials, mindless radio listening, and people trying to network with him for their advancement? And those are just the distractions John didn’t choose. He too is human. He’ll distract himself as well along the way.

John is shocked. He tells Casey about his discovery. While she reminds him that not all mail is junk — and not all distractions are wasted time — she does admit:

“It can get you thinking. That’s why my time with the green sea turtle made such a big impact on me.”

When you feel like all you do is struggle, ask yourself: “Am I swimming with the current of life? Or am I desperately paddling against it?”

Do you focus too much on distractions? Are you allowing the wrong activities and people to take up your time? If so, it is no wonder every hour you spend on hobbies and friends you love feels like an hour you must mine from the hardest rock with your bare hands.

At the same time, for every distraction you ignore, one ally will look your way. Wait for the right wave, the right circumstances to arrive, and then ride it with everything you’ve got. If the knitted beanie trend is fading, maybe wait a year to start your knitting business. If a friend offers you a small book deal to tell a story you’ve always wanted to tell, go for it!

After years of high-paying but also highly stressful jobs, John Strelecky decided to finally fulfill his childhood dream of traveling the world. When he came back, he wrote the book he needed to read; he gave himself the message he needed to hear.

Since then, that message has been shared millions of times around the world: Don’t swim against the current of life. Focus on the right people, the right activities, and the right things. Only then will it carry you to your dreams.

It’s just one of many metaphors in his book, but I have no doubt that, somewhere on the edge of the world, a green sea turtle once taught Strelecky that lesson — and from that very same turtle, we can still learn to navigate the seas of life today.

Today Is Gonna Be Your Day Cover

Today Is Gonna Be Your Day

You wake up. You’re eight years old. It’s your birthday. How excited are you?

I’ll tell you how excited you are: Right now, your zest for life is an 11 out of 10. Heck, it might be a 15. I think you should live your life as if it’s your eighth birthday every day. At least once a week.

Psychologically, there’s no reason you can’t. That’s all life is. Psychology. Identifying, managing, changing your emotions — and then projecting what you have procured upon the world. Seriously. Try it.

Smash your alarm with the force of Thor’s hammer. Don’t roll over in bed. Jump out! JUMP! Try the 5 second rule: 5…4…3…2…1 — GO!

Play music. Pick a song that makes you feel unstoppable. Like this one. Or this one. Or this one. Blast it on repeat. Put on headphones. Don’t stop. You’re a train of joy, and you’re just leaving the station.

Brush your teeth. Wash your face. Open the window. Can you feel it? Can you feel the fresh air hijacking your life? Let it!

Make some coffee. Smell it. Realize what a privilege it is. Wonder about the origins of this miracle. Appreciate its journey. Isn’t it worth more than gold?

Speaking of which: If you want something shiny, look in the mirror. Why should the sun rise if you don’t? Make it! Let a smile radiate from your face. Post a selfie. Wave at the postman. Can you feel the warmth? I assure you they can.

Get dressed. Not in that lousy lounging equipment. Wear some actual pants man! Remember those? Go out with pants on. You won’t believe how empowered you’ll feel.

I guarantee you will strut. You’ll parade the sidewalk as if you own the whole block. It’ll be amazing. Fantastic. Bigly. See? When you’re eight years old, even Trump can make you laugh — for all you know is he talks funny.

Infect the world with your laughter. Laugh for no reason. Laugh while waiting at the traffic light. Grin to yourself like the Cheshire cat. For every one person who thinks you’re crazy, nine more will laugh too.

Buy the food you never buy because it’s $2 more than your average meal budget. Isn’t that stupid? Especially on your birthday. It’s $2! And you only have one life! Treat yourself. Make it count.

Learn a new skill. Stop watching piano covers. Buy an app! Get some sheet music. Press your first key. No eight-year-old worth their salt is content watching others. They must do. Try. Replicate. Playing a song feels ten times better than listening to one — and if listening is already that awesome, imagine how high playing will take you!

Take a break when you’re tired. Hell, take a nap! You can, you know? No one’s stopping you. When rested, you’ll spin our planet with twice the gumption. That’s what we need: A force like the one in Star Wars. Energy! A little divine inspiration; a strike of lightning that can come entirely from within if you want it.

Use it to start a new project. Or don’t. Be extra nice at work. Love your job twice as much. If you don’t, pretend you do for the day. Watch how it’ll transform how you feel about it. Has that lightning kicked in yet? Any lightbulbs flaring up?

This day — today — truly is yours, you know? Always has been. Always will be. There’s no one in your way. Look in the mirror. Step aside. There. Your biggest obstacle has fallen. Poof! Jokes on you! It was all in your head.

Don’t be the villain in your own story. You’re supposed to be the hero!

Life is not a sharp object you try to feel out in the dark. It’s Play-Doh. You can mold it however you want. Channel it! Take whatever wants to flow in, and then redirect it according to your desires. Don’t forget to hand out some to others. It’s more fun to play together.

I know it’s hard to remember sometimes, but if you search deep inside, I think you will find: Once upon a time, you were invincible — and just because you’ve grown up does not mean you can’t bring back that feeling.

Today is gonna be your day. I can feel it.

You’ll Never Love Your Past as Much as You Love Your Future Cover

You’ll Never Love Your Past as Much as You Love Your Future

A 15-year-old’s greatest wish is to be 18, and yet, most 21-year-olds will say their 18-year-old selves were kind of dumb — even though both are just three years away from that age.

No matter how you change the numbers, this phenomenon will apply almost universally in one form or another.

When I was 8, I desperately wanted to be 10, like my neighbor who seemed so much stronger and smarter than I was at the time. When I was 10, I didn’t feel any different — maybe because I had no 8-year-old neighbor to compare myself to.

When I was 20, I thought by 30, I’d have life figured out. It was only at 23 that I looked around and wondered: “Why is nothing happening?” Nothing was happening because I wasn’t doing. I started right then, and, seven years later, I’m still going. I will turn 30 in two months, and now my 20-year-old self looks like an idiot.

I’m sure in my 30s, I’ll think my 40s will be much better, only to realize I’m still nearly as clueless about life at 45, yet not without that same patronizing smile back at my 30-year-old self that I now hold whenever I think of my early 20s.

Why is that? Why do we enjoy looking forward so much yet can only laugh and shake our heads when we look back? Well, in a nutshell: You’ll never love your past as much as you love your future. No one ever does.

In your future, the perfect version of you always exists. Everything is wide open. You feel as if you can achieve anything and everything, probably all at the same time. Your plans are intact. Your goals are in reach. Time is still flexible.

In your past, everything has already happened. There are no more pieces to be moved around. They’re all in place, and no matter whether you like the puzzle you’ve pieced together or not, you’ll always spot many places where you could have done better.

The perfect version of you never materialized. Most plans went to hell. Many goals fell out of reach. And time is just gone altogether. That can be demoralizing, but it’s just part of life.

Retirees don’t get as much satisfaction out of their past careers as college graduates expect from their future ones. Twenty-somethings don’t feel as autonomous as their teenage selves would have hoped to feel. Stressed moms don’t have it together as much as they believed they would before they gave birth.

This is a frustrating game you can play all your life — or you can realize that “all this looking back is messing with your neck.” At the end of the day, it matters not how well your past stacks up against your once imagined future. It only matters that you were content with the present as you lived through it.

At what age are we the happiest? That’s an impossible question, highlighted by the fact that you can find a theory for each major age bracket to back it as the answer.

There’s “the U-bend of life,” a theory that suggests happiness is high when we’re young, declines towards middle age, bottoms at 46 on average, then goes back up and reaches new heights in our 70s and 80s.

The idea is that family stress, worries about work, and anxiety about how our peers perceive us peak when we’re in the thick of life. As we get older, we care less about opinions and find contentment in what we have rather than what we hope to achieve.

When Lydia Sohn asked 90-somethings what they regretted most, however, she found the opposite: People were happiest when they were busy being the glue of their own social microcosmos — usually in their 40s.

Every single one of these 90-something-year-olds, all of whom are widowed, recalled a time when their spouses were still alive and their children were younger and living at home. As a busy young mom and working professional who fantasizes about the faraway, imagined pleasures of retirement, I responded, “But weren’t those the most stressful times of your lives?” Yes of course, they all agreed. But there was no doubt that those days were also the happiest.

At what age are we the happiest? It’s not only an impossible question, it’s an unnecessary one to ask. The answer will be different for every person to ever live, and our best guess is that it’ll be a stretch of days on which you felt fairly satisfied with life rather than a singular event or short period of exuberant bliss.

What we do know is that your best shot at stringing together a series of such “everything is good enough” days is neither to get lost in future castles in the sky nor to constantly commiserate how unlike those castles your past has become. You’ll have to abandon both the future and the past in favor of the present.

Imagine you have two choices: You can either be happy every day of your life but not remember a single one, or you can have an average, even unsatisfying life but die wholeheartedly believing you’re the happiest person in the world.

It matters not which one you choose because in both scenarios, you’ll die on a good day. One sacrifices the past, the other the future, but the present is what counts.

You’ll never love your past as much as you love your future, but that’s okay because life is neither about tomorrow nor about yesterday. It’s about today — and if you make today a good day with your thoughts, actions, and decisions, the idea of age will soon fade altogether.

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.

If You Drove Half as Fast, You'd Still Get There on Time Cover

If You Drove Half as Fast, You’d Still Get There on Time

When he lived in Santa Monica, Derek Sivers found the perfect bike path: A 15-mile round trip along the ocean with almost zero traffic. In his afternoons, he’d get on his bike and race full speed ahead. On average, the trip took him 43 minutes to complete.

After several months of arriving with a red face, a sweaty head, and feeling completely exhausted, Derek decided to take it easy for once. He looked at the scenery. He saw some dolphins. He casually pedaled along. It took him 45 minutes.

At first, Derek couldn’t believe it, but he double-checked his numbers, and, sure enough, he achieved 96% of the result with 50% of the effort. Reflecting on the experience, he writes:

When I notice that I’m all stressed out about something or driving myself to exhaustion, I remember that bike ride and try dialing back my effort by 50%. It’s been amazing how often everything gets done just as well and just as fast, with what feels like half the effort.

A few years ago, my Dad and I used to do something similar: We raced home in our cars. It’s about five miles from the city to the suburbs, and we too used to speed, catch yellow traffic lights, and overtake anyone in our way.

One day, we did the math: If you go 50% over the limit on such a short trip, you’ll save about one minute. We’ve been cruising ever since.

Life is like that a lot. You go all out to be 50% faster, better, stronger, only to arrive one day early at the finish line.

It’s easy to get caught up the everyday hustle. “Let me queue in the other line.” “I can cut a corner here.” “Maybe, I can get them to approve my application faster.” Switching lanes often feels efficient in the moment but won’t make a big difference in the end.

This applies to our daily to-do lists as much as it applies to our biggest goals. If you get the report one day sooner, the company can go public one day earlier — but all that means is that its shares will trade one day extra. On a 10-year-timeline, who cares about that day? No one.

You can stay up till 2 AM and post one extra article. But in your five-year-plan of becoming a writer, does it really matter? Sometimes, it will. Most of the time, however, it won’t. But if you don’t get enough sleep, you can’t see through your five-year-plan. That part always matters.

You can race to your friend’s BBQ and honk and yell at every other driver along the way. Or, you can drive half as fast and still get there on time.

You’d arrive relaxed, happy, and in a positive state of mind. You wouldn’t be exhausted from all the stress that took so much from your mind but added so little to your outcome. This is what Derek learned from his frantic bike rides:

Half of my effort wasn’t effort at all, but just unnecessary stress that made me feel like I was doing my best.

Sometimes, doing your best means having nothing left to give. Usually, it doesn’t. More often than not, feeling completely spent is a sign that you wasted most of your energy.

Energy is precious. Conserve it. Direct it efficiently. Take pride in doing your best in a way that lets you do your best again tomorrow. Life is short. Enjoy it. Don’t burn through it too quickly. Be content with the 96%.

After all, what good are two extra minutes if you can’t use them to gaze at the sea?

Don't Wait Cover

Don’t Wait

If you want to learn the piano, press one key today.

If you want to write a book, write one paragraph today.

If you want a better relationship, make one confession today.

Whatever you do, don’t wait. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Not again. Not now. It’s time. Take the gloves off. This is it. One life, one time. No do overs. Don’t wait.

If you want a new job, learn one new thing today.

If you want a big money cushion, save $1 today.

If you want to feel inspired, study one inspiring person today.

Objects can’t move without momentum. You have to be in motion to stay in motion. It doesn’t matter how small — it only matters that it’s there.

Imperceivable growth now brings exponential growth later. You have to trust the imperceivable. Do the small things first. Do what feels ridiculous. You must crawl before you can run — but you must not wait.

If you want to run a marathon, run for ten minutes today.

If you want to be a chef, make scrambled eggs today.

If you want to teach children, help one child today.

Urgency isn’t coming. No one will kick your butt in gear. Urgency isn’t the postman. It’s not reliable. It won’t show up each day at 3. But if you’re already checking the door, you might as well go for a run. You show up at 3.

You must be the one to bring the urgency. You must understand that life is finite. You have to allow for that to click. And you have to do that today.

If you want to start a business, send one email today.

If you want to make friends, ask one person to have coffee today.

If you want to be a thought leader, post one idea today.

Regret is a sneaky bastard. Always late to the party. When regret shows up, it’s time to go home. Too late already. “Nothing to see here folks, just another human on a trip down misery lane.” Ugh. You again. Regret. Asshole.

If you want to read a book, read one page today.

If you want to paint a mountain, make one stroke today.

If you want to bury the hatchet, call one relative today.

The river of time carries all of us away. Redemption makes for a nice story, but it’s not guaranteed. The only promise you have is today. Don’t wait. Use today.

If you want to find freedom, choose peace of mind today.

If you want to make history, take a stand today.

If you want to be a better human, do one thing differently today.

Whatever you do, don’t wait. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Not again. Don’t wait.

How to Not Waste Your Life Cover

How To Not Waste Your Life

If you’ve wasted your whole life, can you make up for it in a single moment?

This is the question at the heart of Extraction, Netflix’s latest blockbuster and, at 90 million viewers in the first month, biggest film premiere ever.

Following Chris Hemsworth as a black market mercenary trying to rescue the kidnapped son of India’s biggest drug lord, the movie is full of car chases, gun fights, and a whopping 183 bodies dropping at the hands of Thor himself.

At the end of the day, however, it is about none of those things. It’s a movie about redemption.

After freeing his target, 15-year-old Ovi, from the hands of a rival Bangladeshi drug lord, Hemsworth’ character Tyler shows true vulnerability in a brief moment of shelter.

When Ovi asks him if he’s always been brave, Tyler claims he’s “just the opposite,” having left his wife and six-year-old son, right before the latter died of lymphoma.

Sharing the kind of wisdom only children tend to possess, Ovi replies with a Paulo Coelho quote he’s read in school:

“You drown not by falling into the river, but by staying submerged in it.”


You’re not an ex-special forces agent. Your life is not a movie. There will be no obvious signs. No excessive violence. No rampant drug abuse.

Just a slow, steady trickle of days, each a little more like the last, each another step away from your dreams — another day submerged in the river.

The river is pressing “Ignore” on the reminder to decline a good-but-not-great project request. The river is saying, “When I’ve done X, I’ll start writing.” The river is postponing asking your daughter about her dance hobby because today, you’re just too tired.

The river is everything that sounds like a temporary excuse today but won’t go away tomorrow.

Trust me. I’ve been there. It really, really won’t. No matter how much you’d like it to.

At first, it doesn’t feel like you’re drifting. You’re just letting go for a bit. You’re floating. The river carries you. It’s nice. Comfortable. Things happen. Time passes. It’ll keep passing.

Eventually, the river leads into a bigger river. You’re in new terrain. You’ve never seen this place before. Where can you get ashore? Where will this river lead?

Soon, you don’t know what’s ahead anymore. You can’t see what’s next. The river could become a waterfall. It might send you right off a cliff. You’ll stay submerged forever.

There won’t be a big shootout at the end. Just a regretful look out the window. A relative visiting. “Oh yeah, that. I never did it. I can’t tell you why.”

All rivers flow into the sea. If you don’t push to the surface, if you don’t start swimming, that’s where you’re going.

No one is coming to save you. You won’t get an extraction. No one will beat you into writing your book or asking her to marry you or being a good mother. No 15-year-old boy will serve you the answer in a quote from a book.

The only way to not waste your life is to do your best to not waste today.

Write a sentence. Make a hard choice. Pick up the phone.

We all fall into the river from time to time. But we can’t stay submerged in it. Don’t let small regrets pile up in silence. Take one step each day. One stroke towards the surface.

You’re not a soldier, and no single brief can save you. No standalone mission will define your legacy.

Don’t hope for a shot at redemption. Redeem yourself with your actions.

Redeem yourself every day.

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.

Your Habits Will Determine Your Destiny Cover

Your Habits Will Determine Your Destiny

I don’t know you, but I know this: You have habits. There are certain behaviors you repeat every single day of your life.

One of them I can guess right off the bat: Reading. But I know even more about you, despite you and I never having met.

Every day, you wake up, get out of bed, brush your teeth, get dressed, open a window or leave your house, eat and drink, use the internet through your phone or laptop, and then, later, repeat some variation of that sequence in reverse.

Whoa! That’s a lot of data for someone halfway around the world who doesn’t know your name. And even though the picture gets blurrier from there, it’s enough data to tell me something else about you, something you might not know about yourself or at least not be acutely aware of all the time:

The outcomes of your life are determined by your habits. Your behavioral patterns dictate your destiny. They’re patterns of action, patterns of emotion, and patterns of thought — but they’re all patterns. They repeat.

It’s this repetition that steers you, like a pair of invisible hands, towards certain destinations but not others. Your habits can lead you to fame, fortune, and success. They can carry you to meaning, love, and happiness. Your habits can also drive you into depression, loneliness, and anxiety. They can drop you into poverty, darkness, and push you right off a cliff.

You might not think much of your habits, not think much about them at all, but your habits don’t just matter — your habits are everything.

How happy you are is a result of your habits. How much money you make, have, and keep is a result of your habits. How healthy you are compared to how healthy you could be, how many friends you have, to an extent even how long you’ll live — it’s all a result of your habits — and if you don’t pay attention to them, if you don’t observe, assess, and consciously shape your patterns, they will drive you off that cliff.

Understanding this takes more than nodding and saying, “Okay, I get it, routines matter.” It’s about grasping, accepting, and truly living by the one thing I’m here to tell you:

Your habits are your only weapon in your lifelong struggle for meaning, happiness, and making the most of your time.

That’s a pretty big statement, and it comes with big implications. Yes, the breadth of challenges we have to address through our habits is stunning, but, thankfully, they’re also the only weapon we need.

Once you see the magnitude on which they operate, I’m sure you’ll understand.

Voting for Who We’ll Become

In the movie Yes Man, Jim Carrey plays a bitter divorcé — Carl — who stumbles into a self-help movement that’s all about saying “yes.” The leader of the movement forces him to make a vow to say “yes” to any and every request.

Instantly, it gets Carl into trouble. First, he must give a homeless man a ride to a remote place. Then, the guy drains his phone battery and asks for all his money. After walking miles to the next gas station, however, Carl’s luck begins to turn. A cute girl offers him a ride on her scooter — and even leaves him with a goodnight kiss.

In Atomic Habits, James Clear says, “True behavior change is identity change.” We don’t think of habits this way because, usually, we’re focused on goals — a certain outcome or measurable result. The reality, however, is that, first, we have to become the kind of person who can achieve said outcome.

“The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner.”

— James Clear

Over the course of the movie, that’s exactly what happens to Carl. There are 103 variations of the word “no” in the script, most of which drop in the first half of the film. What follows is a series of 94 yeses, by the end of which Carl has become a different person: A guy who says “yes” to what life has to offer.

We don’t expect our small choices to have much of an impact, let alone change who we are, but they add up. “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you want to become,” Clear says in an interview.

Having a cigarette once in a while isn’t bad because of the pinch of tobacco, it’s destructive because each one sends a tiny signal that says, “I am a smoker.” Sooner or later, you might find yourself buying a pack a day. In the same way, it doesn’t matter if you only write one tweet a day for a month when, actually, you want to write a book. The tweets turn you into a writer and, at first, that’s all that matters.

Just like new habits slowly change your self-image, slowly changing your self-image will lead to new habits. That’s why, initially, it’s best to focus your energy on a small identity change rather than a big behavior change.

When Carl seeks out the leader of the movement for guidance, that’s exactly what he tells him:

“[Saying yes to everything], that’s not the point. Well, maybe at first it is. But that’s just to open you up, to get you started. Then, you are saying ‘yes’ not because you have to, not because a covenant told you to, but because you know in your heart that you want to.”

Every action is a vote for who you want to become. You’re voting whether you like it or not. We all do. The habits we choose today will determine what actions we’ll take tomorrow. Make sure you use your right to vote.

Who Will You Be When You Can’t Help It?

At the beginning of the movie, Carl hates his boss, Norman. For one, he calls himself ‘Norm’ and Carl ‘Car.’ Also, Norm is way too upbeat for their boring jobs as loan officers. He’s quirky, full of bad puns, and invites Carl to cheesy costume parties all the time (which he never attends).

Once Carl starts saying “yes,” however, not just to Norm’s parties but also to showing up at work on a Saturday and taking on extra tasks, something inside him shifts. He starts joking around with Norm. He likes it. He likes Norm. Yet nothing about Norm had changed.

Carl hated Norm simply because he was “the kind of person who hates people.” In this case, Norm’s behavior had little impact on their relationship — it was Carl’s interpretation of it that dictated the outcome.

This goes back to our habits affecting our identity, and it has profound implications for how we interpret the events in our lives. If our habits change our identity, and our identity informs how we make sense of the world, our habits also decide how we see others, and how they see us.

By shutting himself in and avoiding work, Carl slowly became a loner which, in turn, made him perceive his boss as annoying. The small, daily actions he took ultimately decided how he explained to himself what was going on around him. Clear calls this “negative compounding,” in this case of thoughts:

The more you think of yourself as worthless, stupid, or ugly, the more you condition yourself to interpret life that way. You get trapped in a thought loop. The same is true for how you think about others. Once you fall into the habit of seeing people as angry, unjust, or selfish, you see those kind of people everywhere.

This sends an important message, a warning as well as a call to action: Even though it didn’t feel like it, through his habits, Carl was in control of his worldview — and so are we.

Your habits determine how you will interpret your life’s events. By the time they happen, it’s too late to throw in a quick change. You have to react based on who you are in the moment. If you’re not already “a non-smoker” when that Friday night cigarette is offered to you, you’re unlikely to turn it down.

On a long enough time scale, however, you can change what perspective you default to when confronted with any given situation — and you do so less by talking to yourself than by working on your habits. Riffing on a Charles Francis Potter quote, we could say:

What you do when you don’t have to will determine who you’ll be when you can’t help it.

Be the person you aspire to be when you can so you’ll continue to be that person even when you think you can’t. Or, in the words of Lao Tzu:

Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

Without Attention, Time Doesn’t Matter

Every morning, Carl grabs a coffee at the same cafe. Each time he leaves the building, there’s a guy handing out flyers for a concert. Of course, Carl’s canned response is “no.”

After starting his deal with the universe, however, he grabs the flyer and agrees. Lo and behold, who’s the singer of the band? The girl that kissed him after he got stranded.

Zat Rana argues that our most important asset isn’t time but attention:

The quality of the experiences in your life doesn’t depend on how many hours there are in the day, but in how the hours you have are used. […] Although time is indeed limited, with attention, it can be diluted to expand beyond what most other people get out of the same quantity.

What’s better? A life of 80 years, spent in a half-conscious daze, or a life of 40 years, spent in intense focus on what matters to you? Time is just a measure. Having and spending more of it provides no indication of quality. Without attention, time doesn’t matter.

In Carl’s case, his habits had closed his mind to such an extent that he wasn’t able to see anything. Not the good. Not the bad. Even what was right in front of him. He just passed through time, indifferent and oblivious.

Only once he changed his habits did Carl start perceiving again. Everything before was just a muffled thump of pain. It hurt here, it hurt there, it hurt everywhere — because he never paid attention and could thus never identify what hurt him and why.

In the interview, Clear says, “Habits are the portion of your life you can influence.” They’re also the portion that determines what happens with your time while you don’t control your attention — and how much of the latter you even have.

“Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.” 

Just like your identity shapes how you interpret what happens, your attitudes and beliefs — call them interpretation presets — shape what you perceive — and all three are greatly affected by your habits.

When Carl acted like an isolated atom, he couldn’t see life as something that contains opportunities and he couldn’t see his boss as a person. He had to accept his connection with the world, that he was an integrated part of it, as we all are, in order to get his attention back. This happened through many small acts — approving a loan, meeting his friends, taking that guy’s flyer — but it created an identity shift that rippled through his entire life.

The rest of the movie is really just one thing: Carl being mindful wherever he goes. He notices the stability of his tempurpedic mattress. He notices the offers to learn Korean, playing guitar, and flying an aircraft. He notices his crush having a hard time opening up, the wedding planner being sad, the guy on the ledge just needing a friend. His new habits maximized his attention to life and to watch it blossom is mesmerizing.

What’s more, instead of defaulting into pitying himself on the couch whenever nothing’s happening, he now follows through on his promises. He looks out for his friends. Even when Carl isn’t acting deliberately, he’s a better person, and that’s why time now works in his favor.

Pay attention to your habits because your habits direct your attention. Good habits maximize how much of life you can absorb and where you go when you’re not looking. Try to cultivate good habits.

You Go Where You Look

When I turned 18, my parents gave me a driver’s training along with my newly earned license. Little did I know that, a few years later, I would need it.

It was entirely my fault — I fiddled with my iPod — but, one day, I nearly veered off the road. As the tire hit the curb, I felt a vibration. I looked at the ditch, looked at the road and, instinctively, pulled the steering wheel to the left, returning to where I belonged.

Somehow, I had internalized it before, but, since that day, I have never forgotten the biggest lesson from my training: You go where you look.

It’s a little phrase that universally applies, as John P. Weiss recently noted in analyzing the work of Tim McGraw:

We go where we look. It’s such a simple truth. Just five words, but its wisdom holds the key to achieving greater focus. According to McGraw, we need to look ourselves in the eye, accept where we’re starting from today, push aside all the noise and negative self-talk, and go where we’re looking.

My near-accident was a literal reminder that, without attention, we can’t choose where we’re going — and we can fall off track pretty fast.

Identity, interpretation, attention. At the end of the day, your habits steer all three of these. They all work in tandem and mutually influence one another, but, together, they determine what you think, feel, and do — every second of every waking minute of your life. That’s why your habits are everything. Your habits will determine your destiny.

Clear called his book “Atomic Habits” because, like atoms, habits are small in size, part of a larger whole, and, yet, a source of tremendous energy. “Your outcomes in life are a lagging measure of your habits,” he says. Luckily, we have a great deal of control over our habits and, thus, all these lagging measures.

“You can be the architect of your habits rather than the victim of them.”

I wonder what Carl would have to say about this statement. Then again, I guess he’d only need one word: “Yes.”