Life-Improving Notions

Practical principles for a high ROI life

You become what you think about.

Your thoughts and perspectives influence your motivations and actions and those actions create your life. If you have some belief you can find the sources to back it up and rationalize it. You'll end up surrounded by people that enforce the notions you put into your mind. So feed your mind with the powerful, positive, good, pure, and uplifting on a regular basis.

There is freedom in the space between stimulus and response.

Your emotions arise quickly in many situations. You can choose how you react to those emotions. It's hard to rewire this and you have to actively work on improving your reactions to situations. But if you accept that this is your responsibility and not just your nature then you become the CEO of your life. In practice I've trained my brain using techniques like counting from 100 by 3s and restarting if my mind wanders, or hearing any self-defeating thoughts in a cartoon voice to diminish the importance of it.

Most people live lives of quiet desperation, so you shouldn't be most people (and perhaps you can help them find autonomy).

We are members of a culture and are influenced by those around us. But if you look at the fruits of the lives of the people around you and their trajectories then you can choose NOT to conform to those on the wrong path. Very few people lead truly successful lives so choose very carefully who you emulate. Also NEVER let normal people bloviate you and your ideas. True optimism and vision is rare and to be protected against the haters.

You are most effective when you set clear goals.

Setting a clearly defined goal sets in motion a large sequence of small effects in your life. It starts playing out timelines and situations, it tunes you to the things you are lacking. All of a sudden you look for the opportunities to move the ball forward in your everyday conversations and life. It's a bit like buying a new PT Cruiser. Once you are tuned to it you'll see PT Cruisers all over the place even if you never saw them before.

Your rewards must ALWAYS be proportional to your service.

You can't expect to get recognition, money, or appreciation without first solving problems and creating value for others. The million-dollar question is: "How can I do what I do for more and more people at lower and lower cost?" If you want to have millions you must affect millions. If you concentrate on providing as much service as you can to as many as you can then you'll have security for life. This requires thinking about the leverage of technology and scalability and reach and throughput, if your life is centered around servicing only a few people in kind of mediocre ways you will be disappointed with your pay. You could also provide a massive service to a small number of people and increase your rewards too BTW.

Learn to live with (possibly even enjoy) uncertainty and discomfort.

If you live a life of comfort and certainty you will underachieve, stagnate, and never know what you're really capable of. When you set those goals you might not know the exact path and you have to have some faith that you'll make it. In the process you'll be thrust into the unknown. You will survive. When you are growing the necessary skills it will feel uncomfortable and your brain will have a hard time dealing with it all. You'll adapt. When you stop worrying about discomfort and uncertainty you become more emboldened to thrive in any situation. I think you can even find joy in the exploration, you'll certainly enjoy the fruits of it.

Fail early and often to succeed sooner.

When you learn how to cope with failure well and set your life up to withstand failure then you are able to take a lot more chances, swings of the bat, iterate faster, etc. etc. When you iterate with good feedback loops you refine your process and product until you end up making a winner. School has not trained you to appreciate failure or criticism. You should always be looking to improve your approach and keep your ear to the ground for more effective ways to accomplish your goals.

Lack of talent is NOT a barrier to success. Focused hours and gritty determination are the best indicators of eventual success.

I think that our culture is obsessed with talent/genius and that it's a painfully dangerous idea. If you believe you have talent then you try to skate by with less effort, if you believe you don't have talent then you defeat yourself before you really get into it. When you put solid effort into something you end up liking it more and getting better at it and eventually finding your way.

Everyday you are planting seeds and nurturing seedlings.

Somethings just can't be rushed and you shouldn't beat yourself up for not yet seeing the fruits of your effort. It's coming and you have to be patient and continue to put in the effort and keep a vision of the eventual orchard you're growing. Also don't forget about the old seedlings you've planted and move on all the time or rip them up for some reason. It takes some time to get from where you are to where you are going, that's natural, you can't skip too many steps.

Boy, you've gotta carry that weight a long time.

Life is hard, it will always be hard, at no point will you reach easy street. But if you are tough on yourself life will get easier and easier because you get stronger and stronger. There is a responsibility that you should learn to live with everyday. Still enjoy life and find balance and all of that, but accept that you've got to toughen up, not make excuses, and not look for an escape from the pressure. Face your situations head on and look for solutions.

Use proactive language.

Don't say things like "I have to", "I have no choice", "I can't", "That makes me mad" say things like "I choose to", "Let's look for alternatives", "I will", "I control my feelings". Reinforce your self-determination at every level and approach life as someone that takes responsibility for the things within your influence.

Split your efforts between production and productive capacity.

When it comes to short-term versus long-term results you have to focus on both. In your life if you concentrate all of your efforts on production then you might be inefficient or rusting out or growing obsolete. You should spend quality time trying to improve your ability to produce, looking at your workflow, picking up skills that let you be more effective. In my family we've talked about "bucket-carrying" and "pipeline-building" and someone carrying buckets often doesn't spend the time to stop and lay the pipe. (If you lay pipe and don't use the water then that's silly too.)

Every single hour is an investment (so maximize your ability to control them).

You can never get back a single day. We all get the same 24 hours to work with. You can spend them working for the man, you can spend them on video games or football, you can spend them on the internet. But you can't add to your pool of future hours (well maybe exercising can get some back for you). So always measure your true wealth in terms of the number of hours that you control, then choose to use them in ways that move you towards your meaningful goals. When you look at jobs and relationships and choices, look at them from the perspective of ongoing hours-commitment and have the courage to turn down the things that rob you of that precious autonomy.

Learn to grow your entrepreneurial imagination

When you see an empty lot learn to see a trampoline park or strip mall or library. When you hear a complaint learn to instead hear an opportunity. When you see yourself in the mirror learn to see a successful future. Even learn to push the extremities of your goals. If you want to improve ten lives can you make it a million? Why not?