Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World
Timothy Ferriss

Ended: Dec. 1, 2017

second, because a front-row seat at a Wall Street negotiation is as good a place as any to study the occasional ridiculousness of humans; but finally because it gave me a financial cushion, when I was ready, to try a creative life. It
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
“Busy is a decision.” Here’s why: Of the many, many excuses people use to rationalize why they can’t do something, the excuse “I am too busy” is not only the most inauthentic, it is also the laziest. I don’t believe in “too busy.” Like I said, busy is a decision. We do the things we want to do, period. If we say we are too busy, it is shorthand for “not important enough.”
One piece of advice I think they should ignore is the value of being a “people person.” No one cares if you are a people person. Have a point of view, and share it meaningfully, thoughtfully, and with conviction.
Everything by Matt Ridley. Matt is a scientist, optimist, and forward thinker. Genome, The Red Queen, The Origins of Virtue, The Rational Optimist—they’re all great.
Suffering is a moment of clarity, when you can no longer deny the truth of a situation and are forced into uncomfortable change. I’m lucky that I didn’t get everything I wanted in my life, or I’d be happy with my first good job, my college sweetheart, my college town. Being poor when young led to making money when old. Losing faith in my bosses and elders made me independent and an adult. Almost getting into the wrong marriage helped me recognize and enter the right one. Falling sick made me focus on my health. It goes on and on. Inside suffering is the seed of change.
The genuine love for reading itself, when cultivated, is a superpower. We live in the age of Alexandria, when every book and every piece of knowledge ever written down is a fingertip away. The means of learning are abundant—it’s the desire to learn that’s scarce. Cultivate that desire by reading what you want, not what you’re “supposed to.”
Don’t do things that you know are morally wrong. Not because someone is watching, but because you are. Self-esteem is just the reputation that you have with yourself. You’ll always know.
So I have no time for short-term things: dinners with people I won’t see again, tedious ceremonies to please tedious people, traveling to places that I wouldn’t go to on vacation.
Working later in the day kills your social life, since most social life happens between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends. If you’re working in that time you suddenly become that friend who’s never available, which is horribly shortsighted and unwise.
“We need a new diversity—not one based on biological characteristics and identity politics but a diversity of opinion and worldviews.”
I wear a SubPac M2 Wearable Physical Sound System while I commute on the subway to my office, and sometimes while I work at my desk. The system lets you feel the vibration of music through your body. Music producers, gamers, and deaf people are the primary users. I find the full-body experience of music makes listening to music or even a podcast more of an immersive somatic experience rather than just a conceptual head thing.
The model is called the “Big Five” or OCEAN: open-minded, conscientious, extroverted, agreeable, neurotic. The academics who developed the model clumped every English adjective that could be used to describe someone into categories and reduced them to as small a set of factors as they could. The Big Five is considered the equivalent of gravity in the academic literature on personality. There have been thousands of studies using it, and it’s considered much more statistically accurate than alternatives such as Myers-Briggs. The killer combination is high open-minded, high conscientious, low neurotic.
One key to a successful transition is for the original source to actually move on and allow the new leader room to move. One investment manager told me about a study he did of stock performance following founder CEOs departing their businesses: any subsequent positive stock performance was correlated with the founder completely leaving the board rather than hanging around to mentor the next CEO. Gates remaining on the Microsoft board during Ballmer’s tenure may have contributed to the subsequent lackluster stock performance, whereas Ballmer’s recent departure from the board allows Satya Nadella to fully assert his own creative vision.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? I invest a disproportionate amount of my income in paying for an ever-growing collection of trainers and coaches.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” –Marcus Aurelius Emperor of Rome and Stoic philosopher, author of Meditations
Mother Dirt: It cured my acne and skin problems permanently. It’s a $49 spray with oxidizing bacteria that you use in place of soap, and it restores your skin to its natural balance. If I could buy this for every teenager in America, I would.
The book I’ve given most as a gift is Under Saturn’s Shadow by James Hollis, a Jungian analyst. I’ve underlined ideas on every single page. The thrust of the book, in his words: “Men’s lives are as much governed by role expectations as are the lives of women. And the corollary is that those roles do not support, confirm, or resonate to the needs of men’s souls.”
The audiobook I’ve given away most is Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. Though “nonviolent communication” is poorly named (it’s the equivalent of calling cuddling “nonmurderous touching”), the central idea is that, unbeknownst to us, there’s a lot of violence in the way we communicate with others—and with ourselves. That violence comes in the form of blaming, judging, criticizing, insulting, demanding, comparing, labeling, diagnosing, and punishing.
10% Happier by Dan Harris made me totally rethink mindfulness and meditation. For me, it was always something that “other people do,” but Dan’s experience of suffering from anxiety and panic attacks (especially on-camera, which used to be my career) struck home in a major way. Plus, since he comes to it from the perspective of a skeptic, I wasn’t worried that I was being sold to or recruited in some way! Just a great way to take stock of your thoughts and mood.
I finally came to the understanding that my downtime is just as valuable as my uptime, and I have to schedule it in accordingly. Previously, if I saw a big chunk of free time on my calendar, it was a lot more difficult to turn down projects, speaking engagements, or even coffee meetings. Now, I see that block of time, and think, “Oh, that’s my binge-watching Netflix time. Sorry.”
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. Mark my words, Abercrombie will go down in history as one of the greatest fantasy novelists of all time. He’s with Tolkien. These books are magical in how he creates a world out of nothing and characters so well drawn that you’ll think Joe takes trips to this magical place and interviews these people. On top of all that, Joe has a hilarious sense of humor.
Earplugs for sleeping. I’ve tried them all. Hearos Xtreme Protection NRR 33 work best and are the most comfortable. If you really want to go to extremes to also control light, Lonfrote Deep Molded Sleep Mask is the best for airplanes or anywhere else.
“One distraction I’ve learned to avoid is consuming media that’s just telling me things I already know and agree with.”
Julia is currently writing a book about how to improve your judgment by reshaping your unconscious motivations. Her TED Talk, “Why You Think You’re Right—Even If You’re Wrong,” has more than three million views.
When something goes badly, I don’t automatically assume I did something wrong. Instead I ask myself, “What policy was I following that produced this bad outcome, and do I still expect that policy to give the best results overall, occasional bad outcomes notwithstanding?” If yes, then carry on!
Similarly, I have a tendency to beat myself up over mistakes I make in a blog post, or in a meeting, or giving a talk, etc., and my impulse is always to think “Well, I should have spent more time preparing for that.” Sometimes that’s true. But other times, the right conclusion is, “No, actually, the amount of prep time I would have to spend before each talk, to avoid mistakes like that, is not worth it overall.”
The books Superforecasting (by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner) and How to Measure Anything (by Douglas W. Hubbard) have some good advice on how to improve your ability to make accurate predictions. And Decisive (by Chip Heath and Dan Heath) explains four of the biggest judgment errors (like framing your decision too narrowly, or letting temporary emotions cloud your judgment) and gives tips for combating them.
Fortunately, at some point in this process, I remember this principle: Uncertainty over expected value (EV) just gets folded into EV. So, if I know that one of option A or B is going to be great, and the other’s going to be a disaster, but I’m totally unsure which is which, then they have the same expected value. That’s a powerful reframe. Thinking to yourself, “One of these options is great and the other’s terrible, but I don’t know which is which” is paralyzing—but thinking to yourself, “These options have the same expected value as each other” is liberating. (Of course this assumes you can’t cheaply purchase more information about A and B to reduce your uncertainty about which is better. If you can, you should! This advice is about getting yourself to act in situations where there’s no more cheap info left to purchase, and you feel paralyzed.)
there’s no additional information you could easily get that would make the “right choice” clear—then you should relax and just pick one without worrying anymore. And I know that “relax and stop worrying” is often easier said than done, but if I can’t tell which one is the better choice, then for all intents and purposes, they’re equally good choices.
Poker has taught me to disconnect failure from outcomes. Just because I lose doesn’t mean I failed, and just because I won doesn’t mean I succeeded—not when you define success and failure around making good decisions that will win in the long run. What matters is the decisions I made along the way, and every decision failure is an opportunity to learn and adjust my strategy going forward. By doing this, losing becomes a less emotional experience and more an opportunity to explore and learn.
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” –Bill Gates
Above all, it’s the quality of your relationships that will determine the quality of your life. Invest in your connections, even those that seem inconsequential.
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? This purchase is not less than $100, but at $159, it is too close to pass up: the HeartMath Inner Balance biofeedback monitor. It detects your heart’s minutest rhythms and sends a graph to your smartphone, facilitating HRV training.
Beyond a certain minimum amount, additional information only feeds—leaving aside the considerable cost of and delay occasioned in acquiring it—what psychologists call “confirmation bias.” The information we gain that conflicts with our original assessment or conclusion, we conveniently ignore or dismiss, while the information that confirms our original decision makes us increasingly certain that our conclusion was correct.
“The fairest rules are those to which everyone would agree if they did not know how much power they would have.”—John Rawls
“Beware the investment activity that produces applause; the great moves are usually greeted by yawns.”—Warren Buffett
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”—Harry Truman
One of the best investments I’ve made is, as they tell us on airplanes, putting my own oxygen mask first—sleeping, meditating, walking, working out, etc. In 2007 I collapsed from exhaustion. After that, I made changes to my life, and became more and more passionate about the connection between well-being and productivity. A lot of people think they don’t have time to take care of themselves, but it’s an investment that will pay off in so many ways.
Everybody’s impatient at a macro, and just so patient at a micro, wasting your days worrying about years. I’m not worried about my years, because I’m squeezing the fuck out of my seconds, let alone my days. It’s going to work out.
When I roll out of bed, I do the plank for two minutes right off, followed by downward dog for the same, then a series of stretches. It gets my metabolism going, and makes me much more likely to start with a more vigorous bout of exercise. I used to start the day by getting on my computer, getting sucked in, then looking up and realizing it was too late to get out before the day started in earnest.
Cain’s book embarrassed me. It suggests that most of us undervalue introverts and, thus, effectively take a pass on about 40 percent of the population. In particular, introverts tend to be more thoughtful and deliberate. And it’s not that they don’t like people—in fact, they tend to have deeper relationships with fewer people relative to extroverts.
Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. An explanation of scarcity for rich intellectuals, showing how poor people do stupid things for lack of money, while rich people do stupid things for lack of time.
Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter: I was amazed and impressed by the brilliance of GEB when I first read it, but it didn’t alter my life at first. However, over the years, I kept finding myself returning to its insights, and each time I would arrive at them at a deeper level. Now I find these insights as my own thoughts, and I realize I now see the world through a similar lens.
In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to? Whenever I am trying to decide whether to accept an invitation, I just pretend it is going to happen tomorrow morning. It is easy to say yes to something happening six months from now, but it has to be super fantastic to get me to go tomorrow morning.
Be very careful with the moral high ground. It helps to resolve conflict when you realize that everyone has different moral codes, and very few people intentionally make immoral decisions. Chase Jarvis once told me: “Everyone wants to see themselves as a good person.” No matter how egregious the crime, the criminal usually has a reason for viewing it as morally acceptable.
The second is a quote from a very special man, Christopher Carmichael, “You are 99 years old, you are on your deathbed, and you have a chance to come back to right now: what would you do?”
in many countries in Africa, like Somalia, mobile wire transfer is totally adopted by the population. This means there is no need to bring food to villages, but it is now simply possible to wire the money raised directly into people’s phones. This has been ready for almost ten years but no NGO nor the UN will talk about it, as it scares them. Because if the humanitarian space suddenly gets disrupted like every other industry, it will bring massive change into those NGOs and for all the people that work in them.
Deuserband Original has been an amazing discovery for me. Especially when I spend long sessions in a chair, it feels great to stretch my arms and back, and it improves your posture.
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”—Henry Ford That’s hands down my favorite quote of all time. My core values in life are a positive mindset, focusing on your priorities, and being passionate and determined to reach your goals.
work with my mindset coach, Elliot Roe, and/or use our app Primed Mind. After ten minutes, I’m in the zone, recharged, and ready to focus on my upcoming challenges.
“The great majority of that which gives you angst never happens, so you must evict it.” Don’t let it live rent-free in your brain.
Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success, by Matthew Syed. Since reading this book, I’ve literally incorporated this approach to problem-solving into every day. I’ve always encouraged those around me not to be scared of failure because I believe it’s the most valuable learning tool.
Write down what your successful personal and professional life looks like in 20 years. Then roll the clock back to today. Make sure your choices are in service of those goals.
Out of Control by Kevin Kelly. Introduction to the power of evolutionary algorithms and information networks inspired by biology.
The Whole30 diet. After the 30-day cleanse, I have removed bread and [non–naturally occurring] sugar from my diet and have more energy than ever before, I sleep through the night, and I dropped back to my high school weight.
And now, having tasted synthetic meat, I believe it will accelerate the development of human morality, much like an economic alternative to slavery helped society acknowledge the horrors of slavery. When we look back 2,000 years, we can see how much we have changed as culture matures. It’s much more difficult to identify something that we do in our current lives and the mainstream considers moral, but our future selves will consider immoral. As a meat eater, I can now see that in myself for the first time. I believe that in a few years we will look back and marvel at the barbarism and stunning environmental waste (water consumption and methane production) of meat harvesting today.
We don’t typically discuss the meat industry in polite conversation because we don’t want to face the inevitable cognitive dissonance (because bacon tastes so good). We don’t really want to know why almost all USDA meat inspectors become vegetarian. I think all of that will change when viable meat products are grown from cell cultures, not in the field. We will switch, and condemn our former selves.
Professor Michael Merzenich at UCSF has found that neural plasticity does not disappear in adults. It just requires mental exercise. Use it or lose it. Bottom line: Embrace lifelong learning. Do something new. Physical exercise is repetitive; mental exercise is eclectic.
Blinkist—an app that condenses nonfiction books into 15-minute reads.
“The actual consequences of your actions matter far more than your actions themselves.” One of my biggest “duh, of course!” moments was when a philosopher friend explained to me the difference between deontological and consequentialist thinking. A deontologist believes that for something to be ethically correct, it must abide by a predefined set of moral rules or ideologies, and if an action breaks those rules then it is immoral, regardless of the outcome. A consequentialist believes that the moral value of an action purely depends on its outcome—the act itself doesn’t carry moral weight, all that matters is whether its consequences are good or bad overall.
Whenever I have to make a prediction about something uncertain, such as “Will I make this flight?” or “How likely is my partner to get mad about me not doing the dishes?” I now try to assign a numerical percentage to fuzzy words like “maybe,” “sometimes,” “occasionally,” and “probably.” Whenever I use one of those words, I try to picture exactly what I mean as a number on a sliding scale between 0 to 100 (“never” to “always”). Even though those numbers often feel very vague, I’ve found the outcomes of my decisions have improved significantly since I started the habit. After all, the physical reality we live in is governed by mathematics, so it makes sense to train our minds to think in line with that reality as much as possible.
In poker, the most common error people make is overestimating their ability to read people—classic bad advice usually involves statements like “watch for their eye movements” (humans are generally very aware of their eyes when lying) or “he looked nervous, so he must be bluffing” (nervousness and excitement appear very similar). Physical tells are far less consistent and reliable than we’re taught to believe, and to truly excel at the game it’s far more important to have a solid understanding of the mathematical theory behind the game.
I must, it will be The Power of a Positive No by William Ury. It allowed me to understand the reasons why I was saying yes to things I did not want to do. More important, it gave me the tools for how to say no consistently and without guilt.
“There are many organizations that fret over small, direct expenses, yet have no misgivings about keeping superfluous staff tied up in a conference room for hours.”
Much of one’s attitude toward life depends on their level of optimism. An optimistic person will invest more in him- or herself, as the deferred reward is expected to be higher. A pessimistic person prefers the immediate returns at the expense of the long-term outcomes. However, the news cycle, driven by negative stories of the day, is the proverbial missing the forest for the trees. The reality, best captured in The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley and The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker, is that the long-term trend in almost every measure is resolutely positive. Optimism is a reflexive trait, with a circular relationship between cause and effect. The more optimistic society is about the future, the better the future is. These books serve as a reminder of the great advances society has made.
The unfortunate truth is that advice is almost always driven by anecdotal experience, and thus has limited value and relevance. Read a sampling of college commencement addresses, and you quickly realize each story is unique. For every entrepreneur who thrived by resolutely working on a singular idea for many years, there is another who pivoted wildly. For every successful individual who designed a master plan for life, there is another who was deliberately spontaneous. Ignore advice, especially early in one’s career. There is no universal path to success.
I had not appreciated the maxim “Time is money” until recently. But for those whose time is a scarce resource, learning to say no to meetings is a necessary skill. Sitting through an unproductive meeting has huge opportunity costs. It seems obvious, but people struggle with equilibrating time and money. There are many organizations that fret over small, direct expenses, yet have no misgivings about keeping superfluous staff tied up in a conference room for hours. In recent years, I have become better at judging the opportunity cost of time.
“A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.” –Annie Dillard
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, explains more about life (including human behavior and myself) than anything else I’ve read.
“Trusted third parties are security holes.”
I’ve gotten better at telling my brain “no” when it wants to relate to conversation with a “bigger” story. What I mean is, somebody might be telling me a story about an experience they had, while I have a related story that sounds even bigger or more dramatic than theirs. Rather than wait for a moment to jump in with mine, I’ll just let that desire go and ask them more questions about their experience. What I’ve discovered is incredible: the loss of the opportunity to possibly impress someone is far outweighed by what I learn when I ask more questions. There is always something else to their story that will amaze you. Don’t expect that what they start with is as exciting as it will get. Ask and encourage them to say more!
“Some of the most successful deals are those you don’t do.” Evan Williams
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. He introduces the insights that he learned from surviving imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp. He outlines methods to discover deep meaning and purpose in life.
it led me to develop a deeper understanding of the people involved in an organization before making a decision about mutual commitment. “Know before you go.”
I have observed that people want the magic new thing more than they want improved management to fix problems. Managers need to carefully determine the areas in their business where new technology is the right choice and other areas where a back-to-basics management approach may be more effective.
“The acquisition of riches has been for many men, not an end, but a change, of troubles.” –Epicurus Ancient Greek philosopher,
The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity by Daniel Reid. It’s a wealth of knowledge, almost like a personal health bible, about real-life things that you can put into practice to improve your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Without a doubt, I would say my dawn simulator [Philips Wake-Up Light]. It is an alarm clock that wakes you up with light instead of sound. Because of this change, you feel as if you are waking up on your own and aren’t groggy.
Top down (macro thinking) means I consider the big-picture issues before the small when making decisions, and these [big-picture] issues dominate my preferences. It does not mean I ignore the small issues, as they are necessary but not dominant. For example, I invest in real estate where smart people want to live. While I could make money in other areas of the country, over the long term, this rule will be quite lucrative. There are other factors, of course, but this one is a requirement.
The best investment I have made over the last year is a performance coach. I always believed in the concept of a coach, but I was slow to embrace it as part of my life for whatever reason.
“Calendar architecture” is designing and implementing a repeatable schedule every day. As an introvert, this requires a lot of alone time, and everyone around me protects this in my day. It is also designed to keep my day from being filled up with “gristle.”
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” –Sun Tzu
I’ve found the Enneagram to be incredibly helpful. At first glance it’s a personality typing tool like Myers-Briggs. There are nine Enneagram “types” and every person has one dominant type. But I’ve found it to be much more useful and predictive of how people actually behave. At first I was skeptical, but after reading the description for my type I found it spookily accurate in pinpointing what makes me tick: what motivates me, what my natural strengths are, what my blind spots tend to be, and so on. It’s helped me tailor my role and leadership style to my strengths.
Schedule specific blocks of time in advance for your rocks so you don’t have to think about them. Don’t rely on wishful thinking (e.g., “I’ll get that workout in when I have some downtime”); if you can’t see your rocks on your calendar, they might as well not exist. This is doubly important for things like sleep and exercise. If you don’t put those in first, no one will.
“When I’m old, how much would I be willing to pay to travel back in time and relive the moment that I’m experiencing right now?”
Asking myself the question, “When I’m old, how much would I be willing to pay to travel back in time and relive the moment that I’m experiencing right now?”
The X1 Search program: instant, precision searching by independent criteria (not just Google-style search string goulash) to pinpoint my files and emails going back to the 1980s. As info explodes, and my memory doesn’t get better, it’s a godsend.
The Nasaline nasal irrigator. It’s a big plastic syringe, like a turkey baster. It gets filled with saline solution. I usually use it in the tub or shower. You squirt water up one nostril and it comes out the other nostril, and then repeat back and forth. Typically, you use one cup of water and one spoon of this solution, but I do two cups. It not only clears out all the mucus, but if you do it every day, or a couple of times a day, it shrinks the inner lining of your sinuses so that you have more space and a better capacity to breathe.
The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg
I started doing New Month Resolutions [as opposed to New Year Resolutions].
There’s something to be learned from the way that companies set goals on different time resolutions: what matters this week, this month, this year, in ten years. . . . I think people usually end up losing it when they let short-term things crowd out what they want to take care of in the medium or long term. Over the longer term, what really matters to you? If you answer that, you can reverse-engineer toward that end.
If you [have a habit of writing] things down that you’re grateful for, then some part of your brain is constantly looking for those things, and you feel happier. It’s absurd in its simplicity.
Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy by Bertrand Russell
“He suffers more than necessary, who suffers before it is necessary.” –Seneca
“We try more to profit from always remembering the obvious than from grasping the esoteric. It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.” –Charlie Munger
“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”—Bertrand Russell
Saying no to always having to be right, feeling the need to argue every point, and responding to every criticism. If anything, the pendulum has probably swung too far in the other direction, at times approaching apathy. When you stop caring about being right in the eyes of everyone—versus being right in your own eyes and the eyes of those who matter to you—it’s amazing how little you care to waste energy trying to convince people of your view.
An important insight gained over several years was that anything that was quantified and tracked on a regular basis would invariably show improvement (sleep times, liquid intake, stretching frequency, nutritional habits, etc.). Quantifying behavior raises awareness and, as a consequence, habit acquisition times are typically accelerated. Eventually, we applied this understanding to mental and emotional training. Using daily journal entries to quantify the frequency of positive versus negative thinking, giving 100 percent effort in practice, engagement levels, the tone and content of one’s private voice, anger management, etc., produced similarly exciting results. Because of these insights, I decided to take up daily journaling myself. After only a few weeks, the only regret I had was that I hadn’t started the process much earlier in my life.
Another piece of bad advice: “Protect yourself from stress and your life will be better.” Protection from stress serves only to erode my capacity [to handle it]. Stress exposure is the stimulus for all growth, and growth actually occurs during episodes of recovery. Avoiding stress, I have learned, will never provide the capacity that life demands of me. For me, balancing episodes of stress with equivalent doses of recovery is the answer.
“Discipline equals freedom.” Everyone wants freedom. We want to be physically free and mentally free. We want to be financially free and we want more free time. But where does that freedom come from? How do we get it? The answer is the opposite of freedom. The answer is discipline. You want more free time? Follow a more disciplined time-management system. You want financial freedom? Implement long-term financial discipline in your life. Do you want to be physically free to move how you want, and to be free from many health issues caused by poor lifestyle choices? Then you have to have the discipline to eat healthy food and consistently work out. We all want freedom. Discipline is the only way to get it.
I’m rarely too busy, if you can keep the right attitude about it, which is, “I can definitely say I am living my life to the fullest.” I’ll then clarify which items are causing the most stress and why. It’s usually because you haven’t done something you should have taken care of. So out come the two notepads, and you have to begin immediately on chipping away at a stressor.
Nobody really knows what the world and the job market will look like in 2040, hence nobody knows what to teach young people today. Consequently, it is likely that most of what you currently learn at school will be irrelevant by the time you are 40. So what should you focus on? My best advice is to focus on personal resilience and emotional intelligence. Traditionally, life has been divided into two main parts: a period of learning followed by a period of working. In the first part of life you built a stable identity and acquired personal and professional skills; in the second part of life you relied on your identity and skills to navigate the world, earn a living, and contribute to society. By 2040, this traditional model will become obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives and to reinvent themselves again and again. The world of 2040 will be a very different world from today, and an extremely hectic world. The pace of change is likely to accelerate even further. So people will need the ability to learn all the time and to reinvent themselves repeatedly—even at age 60.
The current educational model, devised during the 19th century Industrial Revolution, is bankrupt. But so far we haven’t created a viable alternative. So don’t trust the adults too much. In the past, it was a safe bet to trust adults, because they knew the world quite well, and the world changed slowly. But the 21st century is going to be different. Whatever the adults have learned about economics, politics, or relationships may be outdated. Similarly, don’t trust technology too much. You must make technology serve you, instead of you serving it. If you aren’t careful, technology will start dictating your aims and enslaving you to its agenda.
“LOVE THE PAIN.” My senior year of high school, I read a book called Mental Toughness Training for Sports by Dr. Jim Loehr. My best competitive season of sports—then or since—followed. Throughout that entire period, I wrote one thing at the top of my journal before every wrestling practice: “LOVE THE PAIN.”
Most of the time, “What should I do with my life?” is a terrible question. “What should I do with this tennis serve?” “What should I do with this line at Starbucks?” “What should I do with this traffic jam?” “How should I respond to the anger I feel welling up in my chest?” These are better questions. Excellence is the next five minutes, improvement is the next five minutes, happiness is the next five minutes. This doesn’t mean you ignore planning. I encourage you to make huge, ambitious plans. Just remember that the big-beyond-belief things are accomplished when you deconstruct them into the smallest possible pieces and focus on each “moment of impact,” one step at a time.
The power broker in your life is the voice that no one ever hears. How well you revisit the tone and content of your private voice is what determines the quality of your life. It is the master storyteller, and the stories we tell ourselves are our reality. For instance, how do you speak to yourself when you make a mistake that upsets you? Would you speak that way to a dear friend when they’ve made a mistake? If not, you have work to do. Trust me, we all have work to do.
“LOVE THE PAIN” isn’t about self-flagellation. It’s a simple reminder that nearly all growth requires discomfort. Sometimes the discomfort is mild, like an uphill bike ride or swallowing your ego to listen more attentively. Other times, it’s far more painful, like lactic-threshold training or the emotional equivalent of having a bone reset. None of these stressors are lethal, and it’s the rare person who pursues them. The benefits or lack thereof depend on how you talk to yourself. Hence, “LOVE THE PAIN.”
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, “Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore.” The “hurt” part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.
Based on everything I’ve seen, a simple recipe can work: focus on what’s in front of you, design great days to create a great life, and try not to make the same mistake twice. That’s it. Stop hitting net balls and try something else, perhaps even the opposite. If you really want extra credit, try not to be a dick, and you’ll be a Voltron-level superstar.
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