Nine years ago, I lived in BMW’s housing for interns. We were all on a budget, and so one day, my neighbor suggested we make sandwiches. He had a panini grill and, in just a few minutes, with nothing more than salami, cheese, and oregano, he whipped up some surprisingly good toasts.

From that day onwards, we ate sandwiches at least three times a week. We made salami sandwiches, tomato sandwiches, and cheese sandwiches. We invited the entire floor to join. It was cheap, fast, and delicious — and it became a defining memory of that period of my life.

Naturally, I bought a panini grill shortly thereafter, and today, nine years later, I still regularly make sandwiches. Same recipe. Same device. And it’s still cheap, fast, and delicious.

Some things really last forever. You never know behind which door lies a lifetime favorite recipe, a lifelong friendship, or an object you’ll carry with you till the end. But every day, you do open doors. Pay attention and, every now and then, remember to cherish the habits carrying you a great deal of the way.

Never Say Never

A friend of mine would be the perfect politician. He’s smart, well-spoken, and has a clear, conservative stance on most issues. He deeply cares about politics. He even has other, purely luck-based credentials, such as being fairly tall — an advantage in exuding authority when you address crowds.

Today, he told me he’s finally ready to give up on that dream. “Who knows? I might still do it later. Never say never. But at this point, I’m ready to admit it’s okay if I don’t get to live this dream.”

Never say never. What a great, comforting line. I love parking dreams there. Being a snowboarder. Editing masterful music videos. Moving to Japan. I’ll probably never do any of those things. Probably. But hey, never say never!

Having arrived in our 30s, I think my friends, like me, are starting to realize it’s okay to settle. That, sooner or later, everyone has to settle. You can’t do it all. You can never do it all. But if you have a partner you love, a few good friends, a decent job, and a home you enjoy, what gives? Some things are more important than others, but to most, balance is more important than some things.

So what if most of your bucket list stays in the bucket until you kick it? As long as you have no regrets about how you spent the majority of the time you had while you were here, not having spent certain bits of it on certain things won’t matter — but hey, never say never!

No one knows which turn their life will take next, and parked dreams may still turn on even long after you turned off the lights in the garage.

There Is Only One Team

When you run a book summary website, it’s easy to think every other book summary site is your competitor. They’re not. What we are is one team, one group of people trying to provide faster access to information while also encouraging others to read more. The point is not to get people to read your book summaries, not theirs; it is to get more people to read more book summaries — both yours and theirs.

Whether you’re worried about your coworker stealing your promotion, your bandmate hogging the spotlight, or your competitor taking your market share, remember: There is only one team, and we’re all on it. You are. I am. So is your neighbor, your son’s principal, and the cleaner at your company’s Iceland office.

The only way we truly win is together, not at each other’s expense. See the big picture, and clap for your competition. In time, we’ll all have our hands on the same trophy, and it’ll feel even better than lifting it alone.

After You Ship

When I publish a list of the best philosophy books on Four Minute Books, the writing process is satisfying. It’s a lot of work, but I can just type, type, type and then release the work with almost no edits. If I work on a list for multiple days, I can go to bed each day knowing what I’ve achieved. Two thousand words, four thousand words, six thousand words — however many they may be, I’ll be exhausted but satisfied, tired but happy.

After I publish, however, the satisfaction fades as quickly as the days on which I manufactured it. The list is just a list — a useful document, perhaps even a fun one, but nothing that ignites the soul. Something worth looking up but not remembering.

When I write a long, winding piece about the connection between knowledge and relationships, the process is agony. I stare at the blinking cursor for hours, delete paragraphs right after I write them, and keep doubting the entire composition alongside my sanity every night while I slowly drift to sleep. Once I finally hit publish, however, a vial of pride juice breaks and slowly begins to release its intoxicating contents. I don’t care about the stats. I disregard the piece’s performance. I bathe in the glory of the one kind email by a reader six months down the line, and I conclude: “That was totally worth it. I’m so happy that I wrote this.”

Whether you produce blog posts, photographs, or happy customers, the conundrum staring you in the face is the same: The part of your life that happens after you ship will be a lot longer than the brief phase in which you toil away on whatever you are making. Therefore, when you optimize for satisfaction-on-the-go, you sacrifice long-term happiness for short-term convenience.

The version of me that’s working on a book list disappears as soon as the list is posted. The version of me that remembers once having published a book list will be around for a long time. Of course, you can’t always pick pride. On some days, you just have to show up and do your job. But the longer the blandness lasts, the more you’ll wonder: “Why am I not happy after I ship?” Make sure you take one for yourself before you forget the answer.

Your Hard Drive Isn’t Full

Sometimes, I walk by a car, and the license plate letters trigger a totally unrelated acronym in my mind. “MB-S,” one read this morning. What it stands for is the county of Miesbach, and the S is random. What my brain chose to remind me of, however, is “mortgage-backed securities,” a term thrown around a lot in discussions of the 2008 financial crisis — often abbreviated as “MBS.”

I’m always amazed at how far back some things lie that my brain can still recall, even if I can’t do it at will. Naturally, the older I get, the more joy I find in my mental attic’s random ejections. Closer and closer, they lead me to a comforting belief: Nothing is ever lost — even if you can’t remember it.

If that were to be true, another cool fact would follow: Your hard drive isn’t full. In fact, it’ll never be full. Your brain has infinite space. Your consciousness hasn’t, and your attention spotlight can only deal with a few things at any one time. But down in the depths? There’s always a little more room.

Does your head feel full? Mine does all the time. Having so little attention when there’s so much we could be tending to is an affliction we all share. But just because we don’t consciously do it does not mean those unremembered things go unattended, and every now and then, in a moment of quiet or inspiration, your mind will magically remind you: Your hard drive isn’t full, and nothing you store on it will ever go to waste.

Bad Focus Is Better Than No Focus

The first month of the year was hectic. Stressful. Full of distractions. Flat hunting took a lot of time. My girlfriend is trying to move countries. There were a lot of emails I wish I didn’t have to answer, tax problems I didn’t know I’d have to solve, and the usual shiny object fabrications plaguing any entrepreneur’s mind.

Yet, despite everything, I managed to close out the month’s column on my Trello board with only one of 19 deliverables unfinished. “What?!” I was shocked when I saw that I would close out the month at a 95% completion rate. How could I have done so well despite my focus feeling almost universally bad, at times even non-existent, all throughout the month?

The answer is that, if we make it so, feeling has little to do with doing — and bad focus still trumps no focus on any day of the week. Had I not set these milestones the month before, I probably would have meandered from random task to random task. Had I not aspired to focus — I set the word both as my wallpaper and yearly theme — I probably never would have recovered from my distractions.

“Alright, that was a long detour. Come on. Let’s focus. Let’s get back on track.” I had this conversation with myself dozens, maybe even hundreds of times throughout the month. Apparently, it helped.

It’s easy to throw your focus out the window at the first sign of difficulty. Why keep the monthly plan when you’ve had a bad first week? It’s tempting to make a new one, move the goalpost, and call it a day. Or, in Al Pacino’s words, “we can fight our way back. Into the light. We can climb out of hell. One inch at a time.”

Even when your focus feels bad, chances are, it is still working. Don’t give up too soon. Don’t count the check marks before the month is up. Set your focus, and then fight for it. Even if the struggle is real, your effort might still add up.

More for Better

The problem with most platforms for creators is that they don’t provide more for better. They provide more for more.

Some of the last well-earning stories I had on Medium were rewrites of articles I had penned five years before. I was getting to the point where repeating myself would have been the most profitable thing to do, and that’s a problem most platforms share.

Of course, if you’re out for easy money, that’s not a problem at all. Many Youtubers are happy to make videos following the same patterns, using the same music, promoting them with the same thumbnails, over and over and over again. But that’s not art. That’s mass production. And then there’s MrBeast. Every video is grander, crazier, more ambitious than the last. Every video forces the audience to grow with him — or go back to enjoying his older stuff if they don’t like his latest incarnation.

If you’re serious about art in any of its infinite forms — combining classical music with dubstep, getting AI art generators to paint masterpieces, or delivering a customer service experience people will never forget — you don’t want to be stuck in a place that pays more for more. You must find a place that offers more for better.

“Better” can mean any one of a million things. “More” is just one of them, and even that comes in various shades. “More” can also mean “different.” Twitter doesn’t want you to reinvent yourself. It wants you to tweet on brand. Change direction, and you’ll lose half your followers — or at least all of your engagement.

Chances are, the place where you’ll be rewarded more for being better is a place you’ll have to build yourself. Be accountable to the audience, not the algorithm! What do your customers want? Sometimes it’ll be more. Sometimes it’ll be less. Sometimes it’ll be faster loading speeds of the same page, and sometimes it’ll be a completely different membership model that they didn’t even know they needed until you invented it. But you’ll never even have the idea if you’re busy serving the server, going full speed ahead with blinders, cranking out an endless sludge of content so the firehose may keep spraying and the platform will keep paying.

Be wary of more for more. Insist on more for better, and you’ll find a game you can keep playing forever.

The End of Job Security

The first book I summarized on Four Minute Books was called “The End of Jobs.” It talked about population growth outpacing job availability, about the inflationary presence of college degrees, and about the ubiquity of mass layoffs.

Seven years later, Taylor Pearson’s message rings louder than ever — and not just in my ears. In the last two months alone, Google, Meta, Microsoft, and Amazon each have fired more than 10,000 workers. On a 12-month rolling basis, tech companies have laid off over 200,000 people, and they’re not the only industry cutting expenses.

What we’re seeing, have been seeing for a decade or more, really, is not so much the end of jobs themselves, but the end of job security.

I remember reading about someone’s first day at Audi several years back: “Welcome to 50 years of job security,” the CEO would say. I bet even in the German car industry, which is considered as safe as it gets, they don’t make those kind of statements anymore.

My dad has been at the same company for almost 30 years. I wouldn’t even know where to begin looking for a job like that. All I know are deals, one-offs, and, at best, partnerships which usually rest on thin ice. Then again, the media industry is notoriously fickle, and glue, the thing my dad’s company makes, is, well, sticky. Perhaps, there’s something to be said about products people will always need.

Every now and then, however, the dangerous thing becomes the safe thing and vice versa. When you announce you’ll be an entrepreneur, everyone will warn you of the risks. “You’ll have to fight tooth and nail for every penny!” That’s true, of course, but once you’ve managed to get some pennies flying into your pockets from various sources, suddenly, your income is more resilient than the cushy corporate salary, whose cash and stock options both come out of the same feeding hand, a hand that might, from one day to the next, withdraw.

This post is not a call to be an entrepreneur. It’s a reminder that, no matter what you do for a living, sometimes, it’ll be hard. And sometimes, “sometimes” lasts more than just some time.

There is, however, the other side Pearson presented in The End of Jobs: Technology is at an all-time high. Software costs are lowering by the minute. Where you combine creativity, shrewdness, and the near-universal tools available to you, there are spoils to be had. They’re not always the spoils that buy you an island, but they just might be enough to keep you calm and afloat while everyone else is scrambling for a lifeboat.

This is the end of job security. Where do we go from here? For the world at large, only time will tell, but for you, I hope that by the time we find out, you’ll long have charted your own path.

Oblivion Is the Default

Around 117 billion people have ever been alive. How many of their names do we remember? 5%? 10%? The latter is a generous estimate, given we can barely track the names of all the eight billion people alive today. That’s to say nothing of their deeds, mannerisms, and relationships while they were alive.

When I first started writing, I was big on legacy. I downed that Gary Vee Kool-Aid. I was going to write the next Four-Hour Workweek, the next Harry Potter, or bust! Now I’m happy whenever I can carve out some time to write a nice, long essay that means something to me but probably won’t make any dollars.

Even Gary Vee is talking less about legacy than he used to do five, six, seven years ago. Why? Perhaps, he, too, has realized that oblivion is the default. Most people will not be remembered. Not for long, anyway, and not outside of their immediate, close relationships — and that’s perfectly okay.

To be fair, I don’t think Gary is doing bad work: People are kinder, and often better, when they consider the long term instead of the short term. In that sense, thinking about your legacy has some immediate, positive effects. But it’s also a lot of pressure. So. Much. Pressure.

So what if your town won’t build a statue after you die? That doesn’t make any of your contributions less valuable at the time when you made them.

There’s a balance to be struck: You don’t want to make mostly selfish, very short-term decisions, but you don’t want to grind away your life hoping for brownie points you’ll never get to spend either.

Remembering that oblivion is the default can be a great equalizer. Yes, you’re unique, special, and a singular instance of humanity, but you’re also just one of 117 billion — and yet, it is on the shoulders of all those billions we can stand, because they each played their part in the great story that is humankind.

Be human. Be kind. And leave your legacy to us.