"The unexamined life is not worth living" ~ Socrates
I spend too much time regretting the past, worrying about the future, and dreaming about the future. But I’m working on it.
Being in the moment, where life actually is, is how we reduce stress, do better work, and enjoy and experience this thing called life.
That said, a life ought to be examined. Lessons should be learned, not dwelled upon, but they should be taken from our victories and mistakes.
I've had some victories, many more mistakes, so I've learned a few lessons along the way. Here are 37 of the most important lessons I've learned in 37 years.
- Over a long enough time period, people get what they deserve.
Make the right decisions in concession for a long enough time, and you’ll deserve the life you want, and likely one greater than you can imagine.
While I believe this is true, it's also smarter to choose to believe this because you'll live a better life if you believe this.
This means you can’t feel sorry for yourself. You can’t compare yourself to others who took risks, did the work, made different decisions.
You have a challenge in front of you, and that is to build a great life with success in every area that matters to you.
The rest of the lessons I’ve learned will help in that quest.
- Compound interest is the most powerful force in our lives.
Years of good decisions can be undone by a single bad one.
It builds into something incredible, or something horrible.
When we think of compound interest, we think of investing. Year after year of positive returns, over time, creates exponential gains.
Year after year of hard work, discipline, focus, leads to the same: a life that’s hard to fully comprehend how great it can be in comparison to where you begin.
Just like with investing, start with the right actions early, and don’t allow bad choices to derail your momentum.
In other words, don’t sell, keep compounding.
- You are not your past.
"Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature." -Marcus Aurelius.
We think we’re defined by what we’ve done and who we’ve been. But we can spend our lives living as a shell of who we can be.
So who are we?
We are who we are right now. And we ought to be headed toward who we can be. The mistakes or underwhelming existence we’ve lived thus far can be bucked and discarded in an instant.
Get rid of the bad habits. Replace them with good ones.
“Every night before going to sleep, we must ask ourselves: what weakness did I overcome today? What virtue did I acquire?” — Seneca
- Be brave. Be bold.
“He who is brave is free.” – Seneca
I was around 18 when I started boxing. I had my first fights around then (I think, maybe 19). My first fight I went into the ring timid. It wasn’t until the third round that I found my legs and my fists and won that third round handily.
Every fight after that I went into the ring looking to beat up my opponent.
I’ve had to learn this lesson a few times in my life, which is stupid. But when you’re faced with adversity of any kind, being bold and brave is the safer, more practical, and far more effective choice.
You can get really hurt if you’re timid (literally and figuratively).
You’ll also not reach your goals if you’re timid. Boldness has genius, power in it.
- No one cares about you (in a good way).
I wish I had learned this earlier. I’m only really realizing this recently. But back then I worried about what I wore, the zit on my forehead, the image I was portraying, if people thought I was tough, and so on.
No one cares about anything you’re doing. They care about what they’re doing and dealing with. They care about what they think you think about what they’re doing and wearing!
It’s all silliness.
Just do you. Do whatever puts wind in your sails. What challenges you. Follow your ambitions, who cares if people think they’re too big, that’s just them projecting their fear onto you.
- Most of the things we worry about, get angry about, are out of our control. Release them.
Determining what's under your control and what isn't is a powerful thing to figure out.
It'll bring peace and power. You'll focus on things you can actually impact and leave things you can't.
It's a better way of living and operating.
- Think long term, not short term.
Will this task or think I am about to do help my long term goals or is it a short-term pleasure focused activity?
Apply this to what you want to do and what you want to not do.
Thinking long term and then applying that to the present will help you make the right decision in the moment.
And a life well-lived is simply a series of correct decisions and the avoidance of any horrific bad decisions that will undo all of the good ones.
- Don’t worry about women, just improve.
For the young fellas, don’t focus on women. Just focus on getting better, earning more, becoming stronger and more disciplined.
Attract a truly great woman by being great. Don’t settle for something ‘good enough’ just because you think you need to tie the knot by a certain age or have kids at a certain age.
Grow, improve, and attract the best. Then man up and get married and make babies when you find the right gal.
- Don’t have expectations for how you think life is supposed to go.
Amor Fati - love fate.
Don’t think along these lines…
I have to make a million by 30.
I have to get married by 28.
I have to have kids by 35.
The lines of thinking above will make you make bad decisions. Maybe you’ll cheat to get to a million or marry the wrong woman to get that out of the way by 28.
Let life go as it goes.
There are no timelines. Nothing happens exactly when you want it to, but it happens when it must.
- Take care of yourself before you take care of others.
The better you are in every way - business, intelligence, wisdom, health, strength, energy - the better off everyone around you is.
Do your workouts, read your books, do your work, first. Then take care of everyone else.
- Avoid vices.
Vices act like anchors, weighing you down.
You can’t reach the heights you want to reach if you’re ashamed of how you act.
Just don’t do it. Don’t get drunk. Don’t do drugs. Don’t get hooked on puerno. Don’t poke loose women.
The short term pleasure, the momentary release of dopamine and endorphins is not worth the handicap you’ll have that will prevent you from living your best life.
- Play wealth games not status games.
Most people are focused on status games.
You hear guys talk about 'men should have status'.
It's the wrong game. Create wealth, but don't fall into the trap of trying to look better or more important or more successful than others.
Rather, be more successful than you were last year, the year before, and so on.
Status games are meaningless. There's no real value in them. Chasing them will hurt your chances of getting what you actually want in life, fuck you money, freedom, real individuality and real power.
Want less and have more.
- Focus your learning on developing skills.
“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ~ Robert Greene
Read to acquire skills.
Learn persuasion. Learn how to sell. Learn how to code.
Skills are what will help you win in life.
- Hard times are incredibly valuable. Remember this as you go through them.
“If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” Seneca
They’re not only good, but you need them. If you’re to grow and strengthen, hard times are your ally.
- You can come back from anything.
Go with the flow. Amor Fati.
Life has seasons. Sometimes you’re in a season with uncertainty. If you’re ambitious, you’ll think this is hell.
But it’s just a part of life.
The answers you seek will come at random, they will be serendipitous.
But if you keep stacking skills, growing, evolving, you’ll be equipped to seize whatever opportunity comes your way.
If you do make a mistake, if something happens to you that makes you feel like you're finished, keep pushing.
You can come back from anything.
Reading about some of the stories in history about what men have endured, overcome, and how some men have risen, fallen, then risen again, you realize that it's all just a game.
Play the games to the best of your ability, and if you're down and out, there's always time to come back from the depths of defeat. Keep pushing.
- Don’t be soft.
Be strong. Tough. Have discipline. Love discipline. Work hard. Have thick skin.
The worst thing a man can be is soft.
You will not be proud of the life you life if you’re soft, if you’re averse to effort, struggle, pain, and heartbreak.
- Being alive is reason enough to be grateful.
As an ambitious guy I too often focus on where I want to be, not what I have. That’s a mistake.
The odds of being alive are astronomical. That’s why I can’t ever understand suicide.
You’re taking your own problems and multiplying them tenfold of others, simply because you couldn’t go on.
But what you were going through, the pain, the hopelessness, this too, is a part of life.
We label a person who has depression at times as depressed. But a person who has happiness at times isn’t happy?
No matter what you’re going through, the hell and the darkness you’re collapsing under, breathe.
This is life.
Love it. The tough times can mould you into someone better than you are if you let them. Keep going. Don't make a final decision on a temporary feeling, even if that temporary feeling lasts for years.
Solve the problem.
- This too, shall pass.
The good and the bad, pass. Enjoy it all. This is life.
Don't wish for things to pass, because they will. Be in them. Somehow appreciate them.
- Don’t waste time.
Forget about life, focus on the day. Better yet, break your day into thirds or quarters. Don’t waste time in any of those periods.
This doesn’t mean be busy. You can be reading, thinking, learning, working, training, laughing, whatever. Just be aware of what you deem time-wasting, and don’t do it, ever.
- It’s not that anyone else is watching, it’s that you’re watching.
The most important relationship you have is with yourself. If you’re ashamed of who you are and what you do, you’re not going to live a good life.
You control the narrative. You control how good the relationship is by doing the good things and not doing the bad things. IT’S THAT SIMPLE!
If you want to live a great life, do the right things every moment.
This should be #1. It’s fundamental to learn this.
Who you see yourself as in your own eyes is vital. You HAVE TO admire who you are, respect who you are, believe yourself when you say you’re going to do something.
When you do what you tell yourself you’re going to do, when you follow through, work hard, you know, do the right things, you will have confidence.
You will have a good reputation in your own eyes.
Doing the wrong things destroys this relationship. And a dozen right things can be undone by one wrong thing.
Just don’t do the bad things, the things that bring you shame.
- Believe in yourself because it makes sense to do so.
This isn’t ‘the Secret’, pseudoscience nonsense. Wish it and you’ll get it.
If you expect something to happen and believe it’ll happen, you’ll do the things that will make it happen.
If you don’t believe you can do something, your work or the tasks you have laid out in front of you aren’t that important because you don’t believe they’ll work anyway.
To extend this thought, if you've spent time around anyone you'd deem uber successful, you'll realize that they're just humans.
They have the same struggles - maybe they've overcome them - the same insecurities and fears, but they've learned lessons that they apply and create the success they seek.
Stop thinking you're less than anyone. You're a man. Man up! Create what you want to create and give it enough time to come to fruition.
- Life has never been so good as it is right now in this very moment.
That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it… but love it. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Think this way and this is how it becomes. Everything is perspective.
We can see events and circumstances in so many different ways, we may as well enjoy the highs and lows, they’re all life.
- Don’t do things that bring you shame.
If you want confidence, to be bold and daring, stop doing things that bring you shame.
- Confidence comes from discipline, from keeping the promises you make to yourself.
It’s earned. It’s not innate.
Real confidence comes from you knowing that you’re capable. You get that knowledge by being capable! By doing the things you say you’re going to do.
- Be happy when someone else wins.
Envy is a cancer, one that only eats away at the host. Spend no time wanting what someone else has, be happy that they have it, and earn what you want.
- Release the goal. Live in the moment.
Have a North Star, then release it. Focus on the work, what you ought to do on the day and in the moment.
Michael Jordan said it best:
“Success isn’t something you chase. It’s something you have to put forth the effort for constantly. Then maybe it’ll come when you least expect it. Most people don’t understand that.”
- Happiness cannot be dependent on anything.
If your happiness can be controlled by someone or something else, even an event. Then it isn’t happiness.
You are happy. You are not happy because of something. That’s not happiness. If it can be taken away from you, does it really exist?
- Don’t do what makes you happy. Do what makes you proud.
When we do what makes us happy in the moment, it's typically pleasure-focused, short-term focused. When we do what makes us proud it's long-term focused.
You want to be proud of how you lived, not looking back thinking you were a slave to your urges.
- You and everyone you know and love are going to die.
Live now. Love now. Serve now. Win now. Risk now. Now. Now. Now. Now. Now!
The biggest regret I feel I could have is that I never appreciated where I was when I was there. Maybe I’ll regret not working hard enough or aiming high enough, but at the pace I’m going right now, I feel the greatest danger lies in never loving life as it is right now, and instead living in the future or the past.
That is a horrible regret to only realize when you’re nearing death and there is no more opportunity to love the present.
- No one regrets hard work.
Concentrate every minute like a Roman – like a man – on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can – if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable. You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage this, that’s all even the gods can ask of you.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
Hard work isn't that much more difficult than laziness. Not really. And you feel so much better when you do it.
So choose to work hard. Choose discipline. In the long term there's no way you'll regret it, but you will regret not doing it.
- Be self-reliant.
The wise man is neither raised up by prosperity nor cast down by adversity; for always he has striven to rely predominantly on himself, and to derive all joy from himself. ~ Seneca
You need nothing to be happy. No one to feel fulfilled. Love people. Be good to them. But being self-reliant makes you better for them and for yourself.
- You are the people you hang around with, true. More importantly, you are whoever you decide to be, people around you or not.
I have great friends. Incredibly successful friends. It helps. We talk about ideas, business, not gossip or tearing people down.
That said, they have their own lives. They’re working on their own shit. I am whoever I decide to be. I achieve whatever I decide to achieve.
Your circle is incredibly important, but in the end it all falls on you.
- Taxes are evil.
What most people don’t understand is that a great year can be followed by a horrible year, earnings and revenue-wise.
The taxes paid on a great year could be used to keep the business running and afloat during the bad year. Instead, they’re wasted with no oversight, no accountability, no tracking, no Skin in the Game.
Tax people. But fair taxation is taxing everyone at the same percent. The rich pay more, but they pay their fair share.
I know it's popular for everyone to hate the rich - which is stupid because everyone wants to be rich.
But the entrepreneur is the hero of society. We need them. And most of them fail. Make their success more likely by not crushing them with taxes and regulation.
Even in their failure they benefit our society. They’re the only group within a country that take all the risk onto their own shoulders.
There’s no entrepreneur union.
These people risk everything to give people something.
If people don’t want it, they fail. But sometimes success takes time - it almost always takes time. Allow people to have the time to build and we will all be better off because of it.
- People want power.
Some try and gain power by looking down on others. They virtue signal. Today, we have people trying to gain power through victimhood.
The best among us gain power through the marketplace, by providing people with something that benefits them.
Regardless, we’re all just trying to eke out a bit of power, a bit of control. We just have different ways of doing it.
Understanding this is helpful. You see why people are doing what they're doing.
- Capitalism isn’t a system, it’s a natural human way of operating.
As soon as you start looking at capitalism as a system, it becomes socialism.
Capitalism, the transfer of goods and services, is how humans work together in a mutually beneficial way.
When you buy something you love, you think you’re pulling one over on the guy you’re buying, or else you wouldn’t buy it.
Humans have been ‘capitalists’ as long as we’ve been humans. Trading one thing we have a lot of for something else we have little of.
Both sides think they’re getting the better end of the deal.
When you start talking about a system, with regulations and loopholes, taxes, you benefit those who can afford lawyers and former politicians, and hurt those just starting out, who can’t.
A system as government involvement. A free market is free for people to make their own choices.
- Detach from people, things, and outcomes.
This is something I’ve been trying to wrap my head around.
What’s odd is that it takes no effort to detach, it just takes awareness.
When you become aware of your attachments, you detach from them. You understand that you do not need these things, no matter how good they may be, they are not responsible for your happiness, you are.
It brings you into the moment, out of the future, and allows you to really live.
- Think deeply about possible future regrets.
“There is nothing more despicable than an old man who has no other proof than his age to offer of his having lived long in the world.” – Seneca
One way to avoid the biggest regrets is to put yourself in your 80 year old shoes.
What could you regret?
Think deeply about it.
I enjoy doing this. It brings clarity to the moment. Helps you think long term instead of short term. It makes you think about what’s really important.
It also removes stress.
You’re not going to regret the little things, just the big things.
Are you present in the moment or aloof and in the distant future, worrying about what may or may not come and regretting what has already happened?
Will you regret not giving it your all?
Not travelling enough, loving enough, working hard enough, dreaming big enough?
Think about this. It’s a worthwhile activity.
If you can end your life proud of how you’ve lived and who you’ve been, you have lived a good life.