Do Self-Help Books Work? Cover

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

You Must Meme Your Dreams Into Existence Cover

You Must Meme Your Dreams Into Existence

Why is America “The Greatest Country in the World™?”

Unlike Italy (Caesar), Greece (Alexander the Great), and Mongolia (Genghis Khan), America never ruled half the known world. In fact, America is only 200 years old. It’s one of the youngest countries of all.

So why do they get that slogan? America gets that slogan because for all 200 of those years, they’ve been yelling it at the top of their lungs. When the founding fathers put their signatures on that document, they said: “This is what makes a country great.”

Ever since, America at large has been saying, “Look! This is what makes a country great. And we’re doing it! Look at us! That is why our country is the greatest.” It’s marketing — but it works.

“Which country is the best?” is a stupid question, of course, but let’s ignore that for a second. For any of the years it has existed, including this one, you could argue a thousand ways that America is not the greatest country in the world. You could use facts. You could use opinions. You could use ideas. What about originally taking the land from Native Americans? What about slavery? What about the problems with energy, finance, poverty, food, race, and a million other things? Every country has problems. America is no exception.

And yet, if you could put your ear on the global chatter-chamber, you’d find there’s no debate: By and large, people around the world agree that the USA are “The Greatest Country in the World™.” It might not be more than half the global population, but it sure is a hell of a lot more than just the 328 million people who live there. How many dream of moving to the USA? Billions.

USA wins, and it wins because when it comes to “the country reputation scoreboard,” Americans have made up a competition and declared themselves the winner. They’ve memed the outcome they wanted into existence, and even if the memes were just made up, the result is very much real.

Achieving your dreams works the exact same way.


The sooner you wrap your head around the fact that all large-scale change must — in large part — be memed into existence, the better. It’s not all of it but most of it.

Most people don’t want to accept this. People who don’t understand Bitcoin, the GameStop drama, or how Trump could ever win the election want logical explanations for why things work.

“But it’s not backed by anything.”

“But it’s not a good stock fundamentally.”

“But he’s not equipped to be president.”

The truth is most things work because we collectively decide they should. Much more so than with facts and figures, we back them with belief — and human belief is one of the most powerful forces in the world. The story matters more than the data.

If we could travel through time and be there for some of the big moments of history, we’d understand this much faster. Imagine how skeptical the first users of paper US dollars must have been. “What the hell is this? I can’t bite on it to verify it’s real. It’s just paper!” Imagine how freaked out people were by the first light bulbs. “It must be witchcraft! They should hang this Edison guy.”

Early on, Martin Luther King was just a hot-headed guy with crazy ideas. So were Newton, Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga, and Amelia Earhart. Then, the story changed.

When you actively try to change your story, you are taking back your power. You’re starting to meme your dreams into existence.


There’s a great scene in The Dark Knight where Alfred explains why Bruce doesn’t have what it takes to defeat Bane: “I see the power of belief.”

A few weeks ago, Jake Paul knocked out Ben Askren in the first round. How can a Youtuber (repeatedly) beat professionals? Training, circumstance, luck — sure, but at some point, you have to admit: “I see the power of belief.”

Ten days before the fight, one of Jake’s security guards died. That guard told Jake he had a dream of him knocking out Ben in the first round. Imagine what it feels like to fight for that. Imagine the power of belief. Can you feel it? Goosebumps.

Of course, Batman ultimately does defeat Bane, but not because of his renewed physical strength, better gadgets, or smarter ideas. He wins because he fights for something bigger, something he believes in so much that he makes all the above happen in the first place. Belief is a self-reinforcing loop.


If you want something, you need to tell yourself a story that leads to it. In that story, you must be the hero. Then, you keep telling it to yourself and everyone you come across.

“I’ll write the most popular young adult novel ever.”

“I’ll be the first person on Mars.”

“I’ll make green beans the most desirable food in the world.”

It matters not how asinine or unrealistic the story is. What matters is that it offers the power of belief — to others, but especially to you. You don’t need the facts on your side because if you persist with your story, the data will change over time.

When it comes to understanding what happens in the world as well as making your dreams a reality, the story isn’t everything, but it’s probably more than half. In today’s world of global awareness and instant story-spreading, don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Decide what the story will be, then insist on it with your words and actions. One day, it is bound to happen.

Just like, one day, someone decided America should be the greatest country in the world — and today, that’s a story billions of people believe.

Someone Will Save You Today Cover

Someone Will Save You Today

If his mom hadn’t called him about the suicide book he’d ordered from the library, Tim Ferriss might not be here today. Thankfully, most of us will never need such a chance encounter or staged intervention. Why is that?

Why don’t we all require literal life-saving, given we all fight the same existential battles? I have a theory: You’re already being saved. It just happens differently than you imagine, and you don’t realize it does.

Every day, tiny parachutes protect you from falling. You don’t know who made them. You don’t see them on your back. All you know is you’re okay, and that’s the part that matters.

When I was 13, I felt angry. I don’t know at who or why. Every morning, I listened to Linkin Park. It was soothing to hear another man yell at the top of his lungs. One day, my anger just…went away. Did Linkin Park save me? I think it did. Not in a dramatic, literal way, but with countless tiny parachutes — one song, three minutes at a time.

Right now, something is saving you too. Maybe it’s a song. Maybe it’s a joke. Maybe it’s a friend listening to your troubles. We can’t always see it, but, all through our lives, a stream of invisible, helping hands carries us. Microscopic sparks of salvation, sprinkled like stardust across our days. It is thanks to this stardust that we don’t need a more radical and tragic kind of saving.

Art is salvation. Kindness is salvation. So are joy, laughter, and motion. Whoever bestows them upon us is our savior; whoever makes us laugh, smile, or calm down becomes a helping hand.

We too are a hand carrying others. We’re all doing our part, even if we don’t notice. It’s a magnificent contradiction: When it comes to the big things in life, no one will come and save you. You are your own light. You must be. No one will make you rich, happy, healthy, or fulfilled. That torch only you can bear.

At the same time, you are constantly being saved. Every day, billions of humans send trillions of ripples across the universe. Some of them will always reach you. Some of them will carry you forward.

Saving is for all of us, and yet saving, like everything, is part of the great balance. Every day, we’re both the savior and the saved.

By the time you rest your head on your pillow tonight, you will have been saved. You’ll also have saved someone else. Neither of you will know who did it. Neither will have seen the other pull it off.

All you’ll know is you’re okay — and that’s the part that matters.

Unwind Your Mind Cover

Unwind Your Mind

Your mind has many layers. All day, you keep jumping from one to another.

There’s the work layer, which contains your to-do list, your career goals, and a million process workflows.

There’s the organization layer, which reminds you to do grocery shopping and keep your adult life together.

There’s the social layer, which sends a friend’s joke into your ear mid-lunch and prompts you to call your mom.

Each of these layers breaks down into a million smaller sheets, and you’re Tarzan, trampolining from level to level inside the bouncy castle of your mind. That can be exhausting. When it is, it’s simply time to take a break.

Sit. Rest. Take a nap. Disconnect. Reset your mental engagements to zero.

When I have a headache, I can feel my forehead pulsating. When I lie down, it slows. The waves break less frequently.

Something similar happens when I meditate. It feels as if, all day, I was building a complex origami swan. Then, I put it down and it unravels itself. It is a marvelous thing to observe.

All you need to unwind your mind is space. No devices. No screens. Probably not even music. Just time and a little boredom. Your brain will love it. It’ll stretch right into it.

Life is about creation. Action is awesome, and your mind is the engine that drives your activity. It’s also a wonderful maze. Wandering inside it does not mean you’re lost, but all those who wander also need rest.

Every day, build the most beautiful origami you can — just don’t forget to decompress.

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.

If You Can’t Beat the Fear, Just Do It Scared Cover

If You Can’t Beat the Fear, Just Do It Scared

Glennon Doyle knows what fear is. The fear of eating, fear of drinking, and fear of speaking. The fear of saying what she wants, changing her mind, and admitting her marriage isn’t working.

Doyle struggled with bulimia, alcoholism, and other addictions. Her ex-husband was unfaithful. How should she raise their three daughters? How could she explain she now loved a woman?

More so than most people, Doyle needed her own advice: “If you can’t beat the fear, just do it scared.”

I hope your fear won’t come with as much trauma as Doyle had to go through, but I do know this: Today, fear rarely tell us what’s dangerous — it tells us what matters. If you follow the fear, you’ll find the growth. In fact, it’s one of few things reliably pointing in the right direction.

The scariest thing for a blogger is to write a novel. The scariest thing for a developer is to quit her job in hopes of better. A month-long solo trip for a busy stay-at-home dad? Blasphemy! And yet, they’re all steps towards our true north.

When you feel the fear, can you lean forward? At least don’t run away. It’s the better of our usual two options — to escape or wait until the dread fades. While you’re waiting, consider the fear won’t dissolve. Why won’t it subside? Well, how could it? It’s here to show you the way.

Whenever you’re ready, fear will lend you a hand. Oh, it’s coming. You bet. Ain’t no solo seats on this ride. Once you accept that part, you can let fear do its job. Make it your guide instead of your game over.

Welcome the skepticism. Cherish it. Use doubt to keep your head on straight. And always keep growing towards the scary bright light.