The Year You Decided to Put Yourself First

Love and work, tenants that psychologist Sigmund Freud would argue was the meaning of life is crucial for your well being. You are the captain of your ship and so that means you better be in top shape. Hence, loving yourself and working for yourself makes you love the day that much more.

 

Loving yourself

1. Say I Love Myself

In the book Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It, the author Kamal Ravikant writes about the exercise he does every day where he says “I love myself”. Don’t think for a second if this sounds wacky. It works.

He writes: “Imagine the feeling of catching yourself loving yourself without even realizing you were doing it.” Do it even (and especially) if you don’t believe it. Because if you do it long enough, you will.

In the book, Kamal introduces 3 steps he uses to gently remind himself to return to self-love every day:

  1. Mental loop
  2. Meditation
  3. Question

Mental Loop

Repeat, “I love myself” over and over again and it will become automatic and become your reality like most mental loops/beliefs you already have. Lay the pathway for that loop to run again and again. Eventually, it will take hold whether you believe it or not.

You need to create a thought that is deeper than those unhappy and unhelpful thoughts you’ve solidified over the years.

Meditation

Each day, the author listens to a 7-minute piece of music that he likes and thinks, “I love myself.” Here’s his pattern: Inhale > Think “I love myself” > Exhale > Let out whatever thoughts you have.

Question

“If I love myself truly and deeply, would I let myself experience this?” The answer was always “no” for the author. This question gently shifts your focus from wherever you are to self-love.

 

2. Believe You Are Enough

This technique is provided by therapist Marisa Peer. I first came to discover this when I heard her talk at Mindvalley.

She would tell this story of a celebrity who had everything he ever wanted – cars, houses, women and yet he going through his third divorce and depressed. She assigned him a simple exercise, which is to write the words “I am enough” with lipstick on his mirror every day. He did this for a while. The result? It changed his life and now he is a lot more content and happy than before.

Other followers of her technique suggest setting a reminder twice a day at 8am and 8pm that says simply: “I am enough.”

In one of her blog posts she wrote:

“The repetition of that simple phrase over and over (both out loud and in your head) will eventually make it difficult for your mind to object to it. As the audience member said, even though she didn’t feel rich enough, smart enough, thin enough, or successful enough when she first programmed the words into her phone, slowly but surely she began to believe the powerful message itself.

In my 25 years as a therapist, I’ve discovered that the root of so many modern problems—hoarding, excessive drinking, compulsive shopping, and over-eating—come right back to a need to fill the inner emptiness of not feeling “enough” with external things. The more you tell yourself you are enough, the more you’ll believe it. It sounds so utterly simple—and it is—and all you need is the commitment to do it and the belief that it will work.”

 

Working for yourself

1. Place your own personal tasks first before doing your work tasks

The biggest learning I’ve learned from morning routines after doing it for a year is that you have to get your most important tasks for you by you done first.

Everything, even your job has to wait for you to get to your stuff done.

Getting other people stuff done first may provide relief and assurance, but it won’t give you happiness and the feeling of “I’m winning at my life”

Examples of your tasks would be meditating, reading that book, writing your blog posts, promoting your own work or business.

What they said on the airplanes was correct – “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.” You can’t help others to the fullest until you help yourself. Without you taking care of you, who will?

 

In a nutshell

Telling yourself you love yourself, that you are enough and putting your own personal task before your professional tasks are just some of the 3 things you can start doing on your path to self-care. Love yourself and you will love life all the more.

Screw New Year Resolutions, Do This Instead

New Year Resolutions are a cliche. Why wait 365 days before doing a review on how your life is going? Clearly, there are smarter ways to go about this. Writing down your goals on a piece of paper and telling yourself “this time it’s for real” will probably yield the same result as before – nothing.

Did you know that gym memberships soar during the beginning of January every year? But guess how many follow through to February? Very few. So instead of teaching you what goals to write down with what type of ink on what type of paper. I will be showing you 3 methods that are way more powerful and way less boring than your conventional SMART goals.

 

1. The 3 Most Important Questions

 

 

This one was created by Mindvalley founder, Vishen Lakhiani and it is mighty powerful. Anyone who joins Mindvalley is required to do this exercise and display their answers on the company board. It creates a “blueprint for your soul”. Follow the exercise and you will see why.

 

2. Fund Your Bucket List

Ever watch that scene in the beginning of Up (warning: you will cry –guaranteed) where Carl and Ellie have a glass jar to finally see Paradise Falls? Now that’s something worth doing.

Take out a piece of paper and write down what is your bucket list. For many it would be to travel the world, but be slightly more specific – where do you want to go, how long, and when?

Maybe you want to do skydiving, find out where it can be done, schedule it and start your fund. I recommend glass jars over just depositing into a separate bank account because we get a heck of a lot more motivated when we see the money growing before our eyes like a piggy bank instead of digits on your bank balance (you will eventually bank it into your bank account, of course).

 

3. Build Game-changing Habits

The reason why millions of goals fail every year is that the person setting those goals don’t understand the mechanics of human behavior and psychology. How often do we say we will finally get to reading that book or record that song but only to realize 8 months have gone past and have nothing to show for it?

In recent years, the topic of habits have been everywhere in self-help literature and it has a reason for being there because it works. I will be explaining extensively on habits on another post but for today, I will give the fundamentals –

 

The habit loop which forms habits comprises of 3 parts:

Image source from DeanYeong.com


a) Trigger – a cue, external or internal that reminds you or initiates the routine

b) Routine – the desired act (working out, reading)

c) Reward – the end result (toner body, insight)

 

To really nail your new year resolution and get good for a long time, you need to form habits around the unfamiliar or hard-to-do things such as going to the gym, writing, reading more and meditating.

The part where most people fall flat is figuring out the trigger and reward. In most cases, these things have to be planned or manufactured as they are not organic or naturally show up in your surroundings. In other words, you have to create the triggers and the rewards.

 

Let’s use two examples – exercise and reading.

 

Exercise

Trigger : putting your gym clothes in front of your bed so its the first thing you see when you wake up / sleeping in your gym clothes (the point is to make it impossible not to miss the trigger as you go about your day to day)

Routine : find out what your low bar (the minimum you would do on the days you are ill) and your high bar (the maximum you would do on a perfect day). Start out on the low bar – which for exercising could be to walk 100m or 1 pushup. On the days you don’t feel like doing your habit, do a crappy job.

Reward : many times, people get this wrong and try to convince themselves that the act of finishing the exercise is the reward. A great rule of thumb is that rewards need to have 2 characteristics – they are to be enjoyed immediately after the routine and they are pleasurable.

For some, the feeling of accomplishment is enough. But for others, it is not the case. When feeling not compelled by the reward, look to “primitive rewards”- rewards that our ancestors would deem pleasurable (hence, proven to work) – things such as food, sex, play and socializing.

An example would be to reward yourself with a nice meal after your workouts.

 

Reading

Trigger : Install Pocket and Aldiko on your phone and place the icons on your homepage. Place a book on your desk, in your bathroom and in your bag. That way you can’t miss the sight of a book. (Note: also helps to not use your phone when you enter your bathroom in the morning, use your poo poo time to read a physical book instead.)

Routine : Low bar – 1 paragraph, high bar – 20 pages.

Reward : If having knowledge floats your boat, you’re set! If not, look to primitive rewards and find out what motivates you – having a chat with friends or eating.

 

One more thing about habits, if you have to skip, skip just once. Skipping two days in a row is habit suicide. Research has shown skipping two consecutive days derails you and you have to start at square one.

Knowing how habits work and how to build them is a superpower. If you are looking for more information on habit, I suggest Improvement Pill’s Tamed Course on YouTube. It’s the best course out there on habit formation and it’s free!

 

As you can see, New Year Resolution goal setting is BS and ought to be phased out entirely. Use these 3 methods instead and crush it in 2018.

Simple city life

I romanticize often about the Walden lifestyle.

Live in a wooden cabin, with nothing but a bed, desk, chair, lamp and few good books, by the pond. No sound of traffic, just the sounds of crickets roaring harmoniously. If cold, spend 20 minutes rubbing two sticks together to start a fire.

Have two dogs to keep me company and have them keep each other company. Spend my days writing or fishing for food. And cook the fish over the fire. Maybe even make a stew.

Have 2 close friends come by and drink and laugh the night away. Read great books and write my own on legal pads well into the night.

If only I could do the same…

But actually, I can. I am doing something similar but not near a pond and in the great outdoors (mosquitos are not particularly friendly). Instead, I am living that life at home. I live in a condo near the city. And I have found that the romanticism we often have with the Walden lifestyle is just that – romanticism.

Just because we like the idea of doing so doesn’t mean we will like the actual act of doing it.

I used to love watching dunks in the NBA but when it was my turn to try to dunk… I got tired on the third try.

We would like to think that a quiet and slow life is for us. But I urge you to sample it at home before work, after work and on weekends.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Grow plants on the balcony.
  2. Sleep on a mattress on the floor.
  3. Exercise.
  4. Meditate.
  5. Get a comfortable chair, a cozy blanket, a warm drink and your favourite book to read.
  6. Spend an afternoon cooking and invite your 2 closest friends over/ cook for your housemates or family.
  7. Have a pet to spend the day with.

All the while, sticking to the one rule – not surfing the internet (if you have to use it to message your friends to come over, fine).

This is just my version of a simple life in an apartment. What’s yours?

 

The One Goal Strategy: Finding Your North Star

one goal strategy: guiding your north star

You’ve watched every personal development book/ video/ podcast there is. You prepare a game plan. You understand how habits work and you have your goals in place. You also understand that systems are more important than goals.

You understand the need to be patient, that you ought to think long term. You list down your top 5 goals for the year and now you are off to the races. Fast forward 6 months, you haven’t made any REAL progress on any of them.

Why?

Like you, I heard a thousand different ways of goal setting.

Warren Buffett’s 25/5 rule, Top 3 goals of the year, etc.

But then I heard about having just 1 goal, your north star… and that changed everything.

This post is about learning something that took me about 1 year to figure out. I heard it first from Noah Kagan and then from Gary Keller, bestselling author of The One Thing.

What

So what’s this one goal thingy all about?

The One Goal Strategy is the method to achieve your prime goal right now.

Your North Star is the single goal that best captures what you want to achieve above all else.

In Silicon Valley, startups have a single metric they use to judge their growth called the North Star Metric – the single metric that best captures the core value that your product delivers to customers.

For Airbnb, it was nights booked. For Facebook, it was monthly active users. For Medium, it was total reading time.

To uncover your North Start Goal (NSG), you must first find out what is that one thing you must achieve above all else for this period of time.

As Tim Ferriss, bestselling author of the Four Hour Work Week would frame it:

What if done, would make the rest irrelevant or not needed?

What if done, would make your quarter?

From there, you must quantify the goal to make it measurable.

Now you may probably be thinking – why just one, why can’t I do 3 or 5?

Well, the explanation is similar to that of the research found in the field of goal setting.

There was a famous experiment done on getting 3 groups to exercise. One group was told to exercise and nothing else. One group was told to exercise and was motivated. And one group was asked to state where, when and how they were going to achieve the goal to exercise.

Stating one’s intention is termed “implementation intentions.” And the results showed that those who had implementation intentions were 2-3x more likely to exercise compared to the other group.

But here’s the kicker –implementation intentions works if you are mastering ONE GOAL at a time.

Whenever you start building a new habit, it takes a lot of willpower and effort to make it part of your routine. The longer you do it, the higher the likelihood of the habit sticking and become part of your routine.

How long does it take to form a habit? The research shows an average habit takes about 66 days to become automatic. (But don’t take that too literally, to be safe – I suggest going at it for at least 3 months.)

Why

“A lot of people think they need more motivation, but what they really need is clarity.” – James Clear

Now, you might be thinking:

Why bother go through all this? Isn’t a daily to-do list and a bucket list to refer to on yearly basis enough?

It definitely would be enough. But if you already have done this earlier, why hasn’t it worked for you so far? It may be because:

You have your most important things to get done and you do – day-to-day. But… towards what? Is it as clear as day where your tasks are leading you towards or is it sorta getting you there?

You may be writing and publishing every day, but if your main goal is to publish a book — have you started writing the outline for the book yet?

You may be getting traffic to your blog by promoting your blog posts and guest posting as well, but if your main goal is to create a course and make a living off your blog — have you started researching what course you intend on creating or draft different versions of the outline?

Too often, our “most important tasks” appear to be working for us, they do impact the bottom line and they get us closer indeed –but always sideways and in circles.

And considering that life often throws you curveballs, going sideways intentionally will make the zig zag even worse!

No wonder it’s taking us so damn long to get anything done. We aren’t as focused as we think we are.

Your North Star Goal is the one thing that you can count on to help you make your way home. You can use it to navigate effectively every step of the way when you make your to-do list like a The North point of a compass when at sea.

How

My rule of thumb is to have one goal per quarter.

Yes, you may be thinking to accomplish a whole feat of things within these 3 months. But I urge you to treat one thing as a matter of priority.

Here’s how you can do it in 4 steps:

1. Identify your North Star

Think for a moment – what is the ONE thing that if accomplished this quarter, will make everything worthwhile?

And you have to pick ONE.

The most common areas to focus on are:

1 . Health

2. Relationships

3. Money

For me, my focus for this quarter is to get to more subscribers for my blog (Money).

Pick your focus for this quarter and decide which ONE do you want to pursue.

The point here isn’t to box you in for 3 months and then forever.

The point is to subtract your options to the barest minimum so you have less on your plate and more time to allocate for each.

Especially when building a new habit, you should do just one at a time.

2. Formulate your North Star into a Number

“What gets measured, gets managed.” – Peter Drucker

A lot of people who set goals measure their progress by how it feels.

“It feels or seems like I am improving.”

Don’t rely on feeling.

Ever catch yourself saying “A lot of people do X nowadays huh?” after noticing just 2 people doing X? We tend to exaggerate any kind of information in our heads to suit out narratives.

The beauty of formulating our North Star into a number is because numbers don’t lie. Based on my earlier goal, I will insert a number:

10,000 email subscribers.

3. State the Where, When, How You Are Going to Achieve Your North Star

Where

A lot of us miss the “where” part of the equation when it comes to setting goals. But it is equally important. Our subconscious minds associate certain areas with certain activities.

I can bet that you are focused and productive at your work desk compared to your bed. Your “where” can be your dining room table or the desk in your room.

When

The “when” comes in two parts – by when you want to achieve the goal (for me, it’s in 3 months) and which time of day/ week do you intend to devote your time.

Adora Cheung of Pathjoy once mentioned at a Stanford lecture by Y Combinator that she found working full days at a time on the weekends to be a lot more beneficial to her startup than working 2 hours a day during weekdays.

Due to my personal choices, I usually put in an hour on weekdays and half days on weekends for my blog.

Remember, these are guidelines, not rules. Try them out and double down on the ones that bring you the most results.

How

So how do you intend on achieving your goal?

It’s important to have a plan or ritual you can checklist off every day or week.

Here’s how mine looks:

( ) Wake up and scribble on my notebook

( ) Ideas I have for the blog

( ) Create an outline for the post of the day

( ) Draft for 60 minutes / up to 2000 words and rest

( ) Revisit the next day and edit

( ) Publish 2-3 times a week

( ) Submit to 5-7 publications a week and have an email list ready for subscribers

Overall, my North Star goal for this quarter is:

10,000 email subscribers in 3 months.

Where? At my dining room table.

When? At 5 am on weekdays, and at 8 am on weekends.

How? By drafting 2000 words and editing it the next day, publish 2-3 articles a week and submitting to 5-7 publications a week.

4. Keep your North Star in Sight

It is very easy to forget the goal you set 2 weeks in. Have reminders, cues and even alarms to gently nudge to take action everyday. You can –

( ) Set your desktop wallpaper.

( ) Stick a piece of paper on your wall.

( ) Set your new tab on your browser to remind you of it.

( ) Set your smartphone wallpaper to have that goal, you can install widgets too if you’d like.

( ) Set your clock app to vibrate at the times you should be working on your North Star.

The point of reminder is to set up an environment whereby you can’t fail.

Sustaining momentum from day 1 is very important.

Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator, said that if he could give startups just one piece of advice – it would be to make sure that they (the startup) keep their winning streak, no matter how small.

So, if you aim to write every day – make sure you do – even 1 page of writing a day counts. Little wins make a huge difference over time.

Common objections:

1. Isn’t having one goal boring?

Not really. By having one overarching goal, you only have one thing in mind to consider. It’s the primary goal and that sets the order for the rest. Easier to juggle one than to juggle two.

2. Would it make me a one trick pony?

For a quarter, yes. But not your life. You are free to change direction if you realize it’s not what you wanted after completing it.

In case, you think focusing on one thing boxes you in too much for 3 months… it’s actually the opposite.

Being able to excel in one thing, is a huge benefit.
In psychology, there is an effect called the Halo effect whereby a person who is known to be good in one field (say, SEO) is also perceived to be good in other things (say, writing)

Lewis Howes, the founder of the School of Greatness, started first as a guy who was good at teaching people how to use LinkedIn, but then he moved on to teaching online business and people kept listening.

Derek Halpern, the founder of Social Triggers, started out in CRO (conversion rate optimization), he then branched out to teach online business.

As the record shows, it pays to be really good at one thing first and then branching out to other fields as people would perceive you to have a winning streak.

As said earlier, your North Star will change depending on the goal you set out to achieve for that period of time. The reason I suggest a quarter over a year is because there is no sense of urgency in the period of a year. Act as if it has to be done in 3 months and most of the time, it will be done.

3. But I’m certain I can manage 3-5 goals a year. Surely, I’m different and I can find a way.

Give it a shot. But it would be suboptimal based on my experience.

As mentioned earlier, my first encounter with this idea was when Noah Kagan was speaking to Ramit Sethi.

And he said during their early days in Facebook, a lot of people were unclear about what they should optimize for.

And Zuckerberg eventually decided on the north star: Does it help us grow?
(more specifically, the metric – MAU – monthly active users).

So immediately off the bat, a lot of ideas were thrown out like selling tickets on the events pages, etc.

If Zuckerberg believed in having just ONE north star metric and grew Facebook to a $28 BILLION dollar a year revenue business, then I would give it a shot too.

The point of it all:

You will soon understand that your North Star isn’t just a quarterly goal but a guiding compass to decide how you should spend your time. That level of focus on just one thing and making other goals secondary is how you get the results you want.

The next time you have an idea or your friends want you to go somewhere with them, think: “Will this get me closer to my 10,000 subs?”

And if you have to go, ask: “How can I make this closer to my 10,000 subs?”

Again, be smart about it – don’t eat ramen all the day and get your 10,000 subs.

Take care of the essentials and keep your eyes on the prize.

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Why failure doesn’t exist

I recently came across my friend’s bio on Quora when he said “I live life like an experiment.”

And I can’t help but admire such a mindset.

With this mindset, failure isn’t something to dread, but something to be expected.

Every action is a hypothesis waiting to be proven.

And if it fails, back to the drawing board and try again.

There is no failure, only lessons.

15 Lessons I Learned About Success, Happiness, Reading, Love and Life from Naval Ravikant

Naval is a special character in my life.

I’ve heard him talk for at least 10 hours but he has never heard me speak.

He is the co-founder and CEO of Angelist, a platform for early stage startups and angle investors to meet. He also runs ProductHunt, a platform for startups to launch their products.

He has invested in well over a hundred companies and has spent a lot of time reading and thinking about huge matters near and dear to me (and I’m sure all of you as well).

Here are my 15 biggest game changing takeaways:

1. Success is attained on a long time scale

His advice to be successful:

i) Move to the hub of the action — Broadway (NY), Startups (SF)
ii) Get up early
iii) put in the work
iv) get wiser each day (make each work better than your last)
v) and on a long enough time scale, you will get what you deserve.

To that point, Naval elaborates:

The best founders I’ve found are the ones who are very long-term thinkers.
Even decisions that maybe they shouldn’t care that much about early on, they fix it because they are not building a house, they’re putting bricks in the foundation of the skyscraper, at least in their minds.

Charlie Munger, the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, says the same thing — “go to to bed a little smarter than when you woke up.”

Why the need to be long term and “on a long enough time scale”?

It’s because…

2. Luck and timing play a huge role in success

Nassim Nicholas Taleb would characterize this as randomness.

Like it or not, your success in life is influenced by luck and timing. The same way external forces dictate what becomes popular or not.

Musicians would often say that it was their “throwaway songs” — the ones that they record on a whim on the road without much thought — that end up becoming smash hits.

With all this randomness and externalities, how is one supposed to have faith in their efforts?

Naval offers a piece of advice:

“ Most entrepreneurial efforts fail, but great entrepreneurs don’t.”

He says most of the people he met in his 20’s that impressed him with their drive and action — almost without exception — found incredible success later on in their 30’s and 40’s.

You just have to play the game long enough and randomness would have a higher chance to be in your favor.

3. Happiness is a skill

He believes everything we do is a skill — brushing our teeth, deciding which place to eat, and even being happy is a skill.

An example I personally use to find happiness is by creating my ideal day.

Sit down and think about this — if a magic genie would to give you on a silver platter your ideal repeatable day, what would it look like?

Notice the word “repeatable” — so if you say “travelling” or some ultra expensive activity, your spending is capped and energy is limited, so it forces to look at the things you can do now and often which will optimize for your everyday happiness the most.

For me it includes:

  • Deep work on 3–4 tasks
  • Write 1000–1200 words
  • Sleep 7–8 hours
  • Read 1–2 hours
  • Speaking to at least 2 loved ones in my life

What is Naval’s definition of happiness?

Happiness is the sense that nothing is missing.

Like that time when you are drawn into a book or movie, or observing the sun set, or cuddling with your wife or husband — moments like that are blissful because your mind isn’t wandering off looking for voids to fill. You are content and you feel whole.

4. Be a learning machine

Always Be Reading.

Naval often cites reading as one of the main reasons for all the material success he’s had.

He says:

“The reality is very few people actually read and actually finish books … I think that alone accounts for any material success that I’ve had in my life and any intelligence that I might have.”

If you are contemplating the costs of books on your budget, he says:

“A really good book costs $10 or $20 and can change your life in a meaningful way. It’s not something I believe in saving money on. This was even back when I was broke and I had no money.

“I always spent money on books. I never viewed that as an expense. That’s an investment to me.”

Best way to start reading, according to Naval is

  • pick up a lot of books and start reading
  • put down any book that doesn’t interest you
  • keep continuing until you find something that interests you

How to find time to read?

Here’s what I do —

i) Bring a book with you wherever you go
ii) Read during your commute, use Pocket to save any good articles you found online
iii) When you take a shit
iv) Get the audiobook and listen when walking

There are so many choices out there. Don’t settle for pretty good books, go for great ones.

Here’s a quote from illacertus, he mentioned in his highly recommended podcast with Farnam Street:

“I don’t want to read everything. I just want to read the 100 great books over and over again.”

Great books come in all shapes and sizes. Naval is a huge proponent of reading sourcebooks — books that are the fundamental building blocks of a particular topic.

For example, if you read any book on evolution, it is probably good to start with The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin since whatever books on evolution is based on that.

For economics, it would be The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

He believes in mastering the basics — a common trait amongst top performers like Jeff Bezos:

“I think learning should be about learning the basics in all the fields and learning them really well over and over.”

He believes the best way to make better decisions is to learn principles and mental models of the basics in all fields (more on this later).

So, how does he go about reading?

5. Treat books like blogs

Imagine a well curated blog like Farnam Street and all the 1000’s of posts they have.

You would search for what it is you want to learn and read only those few pages worth and call it a day.

You skip around once you lose interest.

The same applies to books — there is no obligation to read one from start to finish. Who said so?

In fact, the smartest readers decide what they want out of a book, go after it and put it back on the shelf.

There is an art to how to read books.

The truth is, a lot of books are 10% solid substance and the rest is filler to justify the printing of a dead-tree book and selling it retail for $20.

Sieve and filter the sections you want — it is super liberating and you save a lot of time as a result.

SIDE NOTE: I watched a talk once where book prize panelists were asked how many pages do they give a book before they move on to the next one.
The most shocking answer — the first page. Crazy right?

Can you imagine the novelists who write 1000-page books only to know that their first page made or break them?

While I admire their ruthlessness, I’d like to give my books more leeway.

If you really want to give the book you are reading a chance, use this rule by Ryan Holiday:
100 pages minus your age, e.g. 100–24 = 76 pages before you move to the next one.

6. Run your brain in debugging mode

Most top performers are known to have a mindfulness practice of some sort. For Naval, it’s meditation.

One of the other ways he stays mindful is to run his brain in debugging mode ( a computer term to inspect every line of code).

He would play a third person observing every thought he has and asks “Why am I having this thought?”

He would catch himself wandering off and pull him back into the present.

There was one time he caught himself fantasy future planning about his upcoming podcast appearance while brushing his teeth.

He would ask himself — “Why are you fantasy future planning? Why can’t you just be here and enjoy brushing your teeth?”

And the brush tasted sweeter…

7. The only moment that exists is the present — savor it while you can

You can’t change the past and no one has been ever to predict the future in any way that matters.

This ties into one of the philosophies I deeply believe which is “Enjoy it.”

I asked my dad once what he would do differently if he were young and he said, it would be to enjoy the moment.

Most people go through life either worrying about the future or stuck in the past, never appreciating the present moment. And by the time you are 50 something, you realized that you worried all your way to your 50’s when everything turned out OK.

Enjoy it.

Even it sucks — enjoy it.

SIDE NOTE: “Enjoy it” is also the best answer Tim Ferriss ever got to the question: “What should I do with my life?”

8. What people say is love, is not love. It’s a transaction.

This hit me hard.

What Naval meant by this is — love is a one way street.

Love is when you love someone even if the other doesn’t love you back.

If you only love someone because they love you back, it’s not love — it’s a transaction.

Are you in love, or in a transaction?

9. Habits are everything

I’ll quote Naval:

I think human beings are entirely creatures of habit… they habituate themselves to things and they learn patterns and they get conditioned and they use that to get through everyday life.

Habits are good. Habits can allow you to background process certain things so that your neocortex, your frontal lobe, stays available to solve brand new problems.

To some extent, our attitude in life, our mood, our happiness levels, depression levels, these are also habits. Do we judge people? How often do we eat? What kind of food do we eat? Do we walk or do we sit? Do we move? Do we exercise? Do we read? These are habits as well.

You absolutely need habits to function. You cannot solve every problem in life as if it is the first time it’s thrown at you. What we do is we accumulate all these habits. We put them in the bundle of identity, ego, ourselves, and then we get attached to that… It’s really important to be able to uncondition yourself, to be able to take your habits apart and say, “Oh, okay, that’s a habit that I probably picked up from when I was a toddler and I was trying to get my parents attention. Now I’ve just reinforced it and reinforced it and reinforced it and I call it a part of my identity.

Is it serving me anymore? Is it making me happier? Is it making me
healthier? Is it making me accomplish whatever I want to set out to
accomplish right now?

10. Know your priority (just one) a.ka. your north star

You can have anything you want in life, but you can’t have everything.

His learning — you can have one thing.

If you want to be rich, you can spend your entire life trying to be rich and you are likely to get it.
If you want to be happy, you can spend your entire life trying to be happy and you are likely to get it.

The problem is when we have a basket of fuzzy desires and never finding a north star of what it is that you want MOST out of life.

Pick one fervent desire above all else and find a way to not make it feel like work so you can outcompete everybody else.

Optimize for one thing in life — it helps determines the orderof the rest of the things that are nice-to-have and to avoid entirely.

11. Life is a single player game

All of us think life is a multiplayer game. Success, money, mates, status are all easily measurable in a multiplayer game.

But internal happiness is not.

Have you ever been lost in a moment with someone and forgot about all the comparisons you always did?

Have you ever run the “if you were the last human on earth” test and find out how much stuff you would actually not give a fuck about?

Socially, we’re told, “Go work out. Go look good.” That’s a multi-player competitive game. Other people can see if I’m doing a good job or not. We’re told, “Go make money. Go buy a big house.” Again, external monkey-player competitive game.

When it comes to learn to be happy, train yourself to be happy, completely internal, no external progress, no external validation, 100% you’re competing against yourself, single-player game.

We are such social creatures, we’re more like bees or ants, that we’re externally programmed and driven, that we just don’t know how to play and win at these single-player games anymore.

We compete purely on multi-player games. The reality is life is a single-player game. You’re born alone. You’re going to die alone. All of your interpretations are alone. All your memories are alone. You’re gone in three generations and nobody cares. Before you showed up, nobody cared. It’s all single-player.

12. Learn principles and mental models to make better decisions

This was a game changer for me.

If you ever wondered what separates those we are able to make good decisions at very high levels, learning principles and mental models is one of them (if not, the main one).

… (T)he brain is a memory prediction machine. It has a memory of things that worked in the past and what it’s read and it’s trying to predict the future.
A lousy way to do memory prediction is X happened in the past, therefore X
will happen in the future. It’s too based on specific circumstances. What you
want is you want principles. You want mental models.

The best mental models that I have found have come through evolution, game
theory, and Charlie Munger

Charlie Munger is Warren Buffett’s partner. Very good investor. He has tons and tons of great mental models. Nassim Taleb has great mental models. Benjamin Franklin had great mental models.

I basically load my head full of mental models. Different ones apply to every
situation…

13. Genius is explaining complex things in simple ways

Beware of charlatans who make simple things complex.

I think the smartest people can explain things to a child. If you can’t explain it to a child, then you don’t know it.

I think it’s the mark of a charlatan to try and explain simple things in
complicated ways. It’s the mark of a genius to explain complicated things in
simple ways. Really they should be able to do it very, very, very simply.

The really smart thinkers are clear thinkers and they understand the basics at a very, very fundamental level.

Another Navalism: If someone is selling you get-rich-quick scheme, they are trying to get-rich-quick-off-of-you.

14. Guard your time — it’s all you have

If you don’t believe in an afterlife, this is especially true.

What is his view after we die?

Our consciousness just disappears.

Remember how it was like before you are born? Just like that.
Zero recollection and experience after we are gone.

Life is short — we are a firefly blinking in the night.

Guard your time — it’s the only thing you have.

15. The advice he would give his 20 year old self

  • Chill out, don’t stress so much, everything will be fine
  • Be more yourself, don’t try to live up to other people’s expectations
  • Self-actualize
  • Say no to more things
  • Your time is very precious — on your dying days, you will trade EVERYTHING for another day
  • Live in the moment

References:

  1. https://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2017/02/naval-ravikant-reading-decision-making/
  2. https://tim.blog/2015/08/18/the-evolutionary-angel-naval-ravikant/
  3. https://tim.blog/2016/01/30/naval-ravikant-on-happiness-hacks/
  4. https://www.spartan.com/en/media/podcast/episodes?article=47415

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This 3 Minute Speech Will Change Your Life

“Sal is love. Sal is life.”

That is just one of the comments you will find on this commencement speech on YouTube.

It was at MIT in 2012 when Sal Khan of Khan Academy made one of the best speeches I ever heard.

I have time skipped it to the best part. Enjoy.

Imagine it’s 50 years from now. You are near the end of your career.

Imagine you are on your couch. Just finished watching the news. It’s 2067.

You turn off the channel and start reflecting on your life.

You start to think about the successes you had – career successes, family successes, the great memories that you had.

But then you start to think about the things you wished you did a little bit different.

Your regrets.

You wish you spent more time with your children.

You wish you spent more time telling your spouse how much you love them more frequently.

You wish you spent more time telling your parents how much you appreciate them before they passed away.

And just while that is happening, a genie appears.

And the genie says “I’ve been listening in on your regrets, you seem like a good person. I am willing to give you a second chance if you are open to it.”

And so you say “Sure…”

And the genie snaps its fingers and you blink your eyes.

When you open your eyes, you find yourself right there where you are right now – 12 Sept 2017, reading this post.

And you say “Oh my god, I’m in my 20 something fit, pain-free body again!”

“I am around my friends again, my parents, my girlfriend/boyfriend.”

“This genie was serious – I do have a second chance!”

“I can have all the successes, the adventures I had the first time around. But now I can optimize things.”

“I have my parents. I can finally spend more time with them and tell them how much I appreciate them.”

“I have my other half and when I hug them, I can hug them little harder.”

“When I laugh, I can laugh louder.”

“I can sing more, I can dance more, I can laugh more.”

“I can be a greater source of positivity and empowerment for those around me.”

I often do exercises like these a lot to make me appreciate what I have going for me – my youth and my loved ones around me.

After that thought experiment, how do you plan to live your life starting today? 🙂

Credit or Influence? The Mistake We All Make

To be someone or to do something?

One day you will come to a fork in the road, and you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.

If you go one way, you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises, you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club, you will be promoted, and you will get good assignments.

If you go the other way, you can do something. Something for your country, and for your airfare, and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted, and you may not get good assignments. And you will certainly not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and yourself. And your work might make a difference.

To be somebody, or to do something.

In life, there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision.

To be or to do, which way will you go?

– Colonel John Boyd

The question at hand is whether are you after recognition or are you after the work itself.

 

Has this ever happened to you?

You work day and night on a project only for the credit to be due to someone else?

Or that you made the most significant contribution to the team only to have the leader get the spotlight due to your subordinate and less convincing standing?

 

The frustration

It is very easy to get carried away at the start of our careers. We want every effort we make to be recognized and praised. Every correct decision we make to be remembered by our peers. After all, we deserve it right?

But it doesn’t always go that way, especially if you are novice or a beginner. Some wouldn’t even take you seriously because you are in an entry level position and you have yet to prove yourself over the long run

Sometimes, even if we stay in a position long enough, we still do not get the credit we so desire.

 

The goals

When we finish college and come out to the “real world”, we are starving with ambition and racing against the clock to be somebody.

We want to be that person who is married to a very desirable mate by 27.

We want to be that rising star that climbs up the corporate ladder and become the Vice President by 28.

We want to be that person who is a millionaire by 30.

Are we working for credit? Is the need to be recognized by others for our achievements the driving force of our lives? Is the need to be somebody so important? We often hear our friends say that they want to “be somebody.” The titles, the glamour, the respect and the adoration of the public.

 

Mr Goh

I was reading the late Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs, From Third World to First and came across a man named Goh Keng Swee. He was the Finance Minister and Interior and Defense Minister in the early years.

The highest rank he ever gotten to was Deputy Prime Minister in his lifetime. Although he was second to Mr Lee on paper, Mr Lee praised him highly for being the man who contributed the most to the building of Singapore.

If it was utter recognition & credit Mr Goh was after, being the center of attention and be adored by international media, he would have been sour about not getting as much press for his achievements compared to Mr Lee himself.

But he wasn’t that type, doing the work is enough. Getting the glamour and adoration of the public was secondary to actually contributing to the public.

 

The practical view

There is another practical view as to why influence is far healthier option to go after than credit.

Influence (the work itself) is within our control. We can manage expectations in the course of our own work. We can choose to take it as a challenge or just enjoy ourselves.

Credit (recognition) requires someone else to validate your actions.

In other words, you are placing your self-worth into the hands of other people. Letting them become the authors of your life story and self esteem. Like being on a leash to the whims and fancies of others, being steered in whatever direction they want to go.

For a young person such as yourself, placing high regard into something highly volatile such as this spells disaster to your self worth in the long run.

 

Remember:

I learnt an important idea early on in my life and it goes like this:

“Accept applause, but don’t expect it.”

 

The One Question To Determine If You Have Found Your Passion

pexels-photo-345135

All our lives we are told to find our passion. Don’t settle, they said. But how?

Is it some type of inner compass that we ought to follow but don’t?

Do you wake up one day and get inspired?

Do you try everything and find it only then?

Like you, I wasn’t satisfied with a lot of these answers.

All the questions above play a role in finding your life’s task.

But I find that there is an acid test that you can use today on anything you are pursuing right now that will more or less determine your passion, which is:

What would you do everyday even if you were failing?

I actually asked my Instagram audience this very question and there was one common answer.

“Football”

Given the fact that most of my audience were young guys, they said they wouldn’t mind practicing football over and over again even if they kept losing to the opposing team.

Now what is something that you found yourself doing again and again regardless of outcome?

Something that you enjoy doing because the work is enough to keep you satisfied, not the result.

You may be closer to your passion than you think.

It’s not easy to find something that doesn’t dampen your enthusiasm even if you fail again and again.

As Winston Churchill once said,

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm.

Think:

Much like a soldier is asked what would he or she die for, you are asked what are you willing to fail for?

On envy: stop comparing yourself

envy - stop comparing yourself

“Nothing in this world can so violently distort a man’s judgment than the sight of his neighbour getting rich.” — J.P. Morgan

I’m a horrible person.

The other day I was scrolling through Facebook (not because I needed to know to what my friends were up to, but to entertain myself out of my boredom.)

I saw my friends celebrating their successes, some are travelling around Europe.

Did it make me admire them?

No.

I envied them. I was jealous.

And quickly I moved to look at my other friends who I deem to have a more ordinary life or at least one that looks less desirable than mine.

But I always catch myself and ask: Why am I feeling this way? Where does this come from?

With this, I started looking for answers and I can’t help but share what I found. Enjoy.

 

Envy Makes You (Very) Irrational

Back in 1995, researchers from Harvard asked students/staff which they preferred:

  • Earning $75,000 a year when everyone else around them makes $100,000.
  • Earning $50,000 a year when everyone else around them makes $25,000.

Prices of goods and services would be the same in both cases.  So a higher salary really meant being able to own a nicer home or a nicer car.

50% chose option 2, leaving $25,000 on the table, just to avoid earning less than their neighbours.

This makes absolutely no sense, but it is an accurate determinant as to whether one measures their success only to themselves or relative to others. It is nothing more than social comparison.

Think about it – much of our self-definition comes from comparison with others. We can’t define ourselves as great singers, if there is no one else around who sings worse than we do. Qualities like intelligence, beauty and skills are relative and thus when we compare poorly in comparison to our peers, our self-esteem suffers.

We experience envy when the quality we feel inferior about threatens our self-concept. We may not even be aware that we are lacking a particular quality, but the object of our envy heightens our awareness of our deprivation.

For example: Do you feel envy when you see a great diver at the Olympics? Probably not, because, for most of us, success at diving isn’t a core part of our self-concept. But let’s say you were a competitive diver — might you feel a little envious if you saw someone much better than you competing at the Olympics? (Aristotle wrote about this long time ago  – “We envy those who are near us in time, place, age or reputation.“)

Thus, envy of others is always a reflection of something we feel about ourselves. We’re not rich enough, or smart enough, or beautiful enough; we don’t have enough possessions, enough attention, enough success.

 

Envy Drives The World, Not Greed

“It’s not greed that drives the world, but envy.” — Warren Buffett

While ‘greed’ refers to an excessive desire to possess something, ‘envy’ is a desire to possess what the other person is possessing. And more often than not, greed is fueled by envy. A lot of times, we desire something simply because we see someone else enjoying it.

Everyone is here not just to make money, but to make more money than what the next person is making (the research earlier proves this). Comparison and competition is intense, creating a perfect recipe for envy.

Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s business partner, would go on to say:
“Envy has no upside. The idea of caring that someone is making money faster[than you are] is one of the deadly sins. Envy is a really stupid sin because it’s the only one you could never possibly have any fun at. There’s a lot of pain and no fun. Why would you want to get on the trolley?”

While a small pinch of envy is a positive motivator, a chronic comparison complex can ruin your life.  If you cannot control the ancient urge to measure your success against that of your peers, your happiness will always depend less on how much money you have than on how much money they have.  And that’s something you will never have any control over.

 

Two Types of Envy

It has been said that there are two types of envy – a good type and a bad type.

The first type is the feeling of inferiority that motivates a person to improve herself. This bias exerts its influence by framing the success of others as a learning opportunity for ourselves. It serves to inspire us to do more and be more than our current standing. Our envy leads us to imitate that hero in a quest for self-improvement.

The other type, though, is malicious envy, which motivates the envious to take good things away from others. To the malicious envier, ridding oneself of envy requires taking away from the other — the beautiful car or house should be stolen or damaged, the virtuous person corrupted or killed and the beautiful face of someone ruined or covered. The malicious envier believes that those things should be his rather than theirs. He, after all, deserves it more.

 

How to Deal With Envy

An important question remains: How should we deal with envy at a personal level?

The tip I’ve found the most effective comes from Naval Ravikant.

In his interview with Farnam Street, he said that when he was young, he grew up a poor kid.

He would be envious of his peers on the other side of the field living much better lives. This went onto his late twenties where despite he was making a lot of money, he was still constantly envious of those above him.

But then, he figured out something that gave him peace of mind. It was:

“You can’t cherry pick the things you envy so much about the other person. You would have to take a 180 degree swap with that person. (You would have to take her age, her family history, her struggles, her failures, her medical conditions, her pains, her parents, her friends, everything. And lose everything you have built and leave everyone you love behind.) And unless you are totally comfortable with that swap, you shouldn’t be envious.”

After all, it was their experience that shaped their lives.

 

In Closing

“Enjoy your own life without comparing it with that of another.” – Nicolas de Condorcet

Envy is a real pain in the ass that we deal with on a daily basis. It’s one of the main reasons I have avoided my news feeds on Facebook and Instagram. But I guess only time will tell before I’m fully comfortable accepting where I am and stop comparing myself to other people’s lives.

While I know, you can’t remove envy out of your life overnight, you can at least be aware of it when it happens and question your emotions.

***

I once heard somewhere before that happiness is wanting what you have. And I think that is a good place to start.

And in case you’re wondering how you can avoid being the source of envy for others? Aristotle had an answer: “The best way to avoid envy is to deserve the success you get.”

 

***
Reference:
Mental Model: Bias from Envy and Jealousy by Farnam Street