A strong body is useless without a strong mind. The point of health, of peak performance, of strength, is to not only have an impact on the duration of your life - strength dramatically lowers the risk of all-cause mortality - but to improve how well you live that life. That is, how much you achieve, experience, are able to endure, and your degree of victory.
We train to win.
If victory is the goal, you have to put as much effort into understanding how to think properly, effectively, and clearly. A great life is nothing more than a series of good decisions.
Those decisions compound yielding outsized and incredible results. It’s compound interest applied to life. In investing, principles ought to guide your actions, not emotions. You sell when it aligns with your principles, you do the same when you buy. Life ought to be lived in the same way. Whether we’re talking about big life decisions or small, seemingly insignificant decisions, they all matter.
The small ones compound. The big ones may seem more dramatic and impactful, but the culmination of the small ones end up mattering just as much, if not more. Principles, then, ought to influence how we make these decisions.
So, we have to train our minds to think clearly, to see the reality of a situation, the reality of the world and how it works, in order to make the best decisions possible, in order to live the best life possible.
Train your body. But also train your brain. What follows is a brief list of mental models or facts of life that I’ve come by in my reading. None of the ideas are originally mine, nor are they new. They’re proven over time. We may not like them because they end up placing responsibility on us, removing excuses, and forcing our hand in facing our fears. But, they’re guidelines on how to live and how to think.
If there’s anything you’ve found that should be added to the list, please comment below and I’ll add them in a future edit.
30 Guiding Principles to Live By
1. Limitations are self-imposed, as are ceilings. We put these limitations on ourselves, based on who we’ve been thus far and what we think we’re capable of. Spend time around super successful people, and by-in-large you’ll realize that they possess no greater talent, they just don’t self-impose these limitations. Think big, then bigger, and trust yourself that you can solve the problem that is the thing you want to achieve.
2. Hard work is a choice, not an innate ability. It also bridges the gap between any innate ability or lack thereof. It’s a choice we face most minutes of most days that we continually have to choose. A simple way to operate is to do what you set out to do, always, regardless of how you feel.
3. Every problem can be solved. What we lack is information, but that doesn’t mean the information doesn’t exist, it just means we don’t have it yet. Be clear-minded and patient. Don’t freak out.
4. Happiness exists on its own, not because of something. Thus, it’s not something you can search for or obtain, but something you must allow to happen. That thing you want to buy or that thing you want to get won’t bring you happiness.
5. You’re only a victim if you see yourself as such. And in seeing yourself as such, regardless of reality, you become one. It’s the worst state for a person to exist in because it relinquishes all control to the perceived oppressor.
6. Confidence is a choice made stronger by evidence. If you do what you say you’re going to do over a long enough period, you will believe you can do anything.
7. Even the grandest dream is earned by discipline in the moment. Small steps frequently repeated yield massive results. It’s compounding interest applied to life.
8. A lack of physical struggle decays the body but also the mind. You force yourself out of depression through struggle and discipline. You force yourself out of weakness through pain.
9. Be both grateful for what you have while pursuing more. Not necessarily stuff, but abundance. Most people think it’s an either/or approach, but you have to love what you have while also doing the work to see what you can get.
10. Stuff is useless, to a point. It adds stress. We attach meaning to the meaningless when we pursue things. They never give you the sustained feeling of meaning, pride, and happiness that the wanting of them seems to promise.
11. You need to be pursuing something. Not happiness, but an achievement, forward motion, a goal. This dream of retiring on a pile of money is a lie. Humans need improvement for their own sanity, not just for the betterment of society.
12. Find the Pareto Principle in everything you do. That is, 20% of your effort will yield 80% of the results. This principle is found in nature and organisms, even organizations. A small group will create the most results. As an operating principle, figure out the few actions that yield the greatest returns and double down on those.
13. Play games, don’t chase. Life is filled with dichotomy. We have to have forward motion, but we’d be better off playing a game than chasing some end. Games are fun. We want to win them. We play our best, try our best, but they remain fun and playful. Play the wealth game, don’t chase wealth. Play the achievement game, don’t long for the achievements of others so you can somehow compare to them.
14. Desperation repels. It repels women, and money. It repels family, friends, and peace. To the point before, play games. Solve problems. Don’t chase something thinking that your life will be incomplete without it, no matter if it’s a wife or wealth, a title or a family.
15. Comparison is the thief of joy, but also the thief of progress. Each of us is unique, which makes trying to play someone else’s game utterly useless and destructive. Live your own life to the best of your ability. Don’t chase the things your neighbor has or the titles your idol or mentor has earned.
16. It’s difficult to be depressed if you’re in the moment, especially if you’re working toward something. Most of us spend more time in the past, regretting what we’ve done or have not done, or worrying about a future that is yet to exist. For your own sanity, practice being present.
17. A split-second bad-decision can dramatically alter your life. Growing up I was in a bunch of street fights. One ended with a guy being unconscious for 30 minutes. Those 30-minutes were the longest of my life. Regardless of whether it was justified, I could have impacted a man, his family, as well as my own. I haven’t been in one since. I won’t be in one again. If you can avoid an event with even a slight chance of a destructive outcome, avoid it. Also, don’t take things that alter your thinking. Don’t get drunk. Don’t get high. Don’t even get blindly angry.
18. Prioritize learning every day. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to solve quickly. The more things you can solve quickly and effectively, the more you’ll achieve, and the better your life will be. We prioritize doing, but learning makes the doing more effective.
19. The phrase, ‘fuck it’, is as powerful a phrase there is in the english language. What do we really have to lose? A life spent in the pursuit of greatness, even if greatness isn’t won, is a better life than one spent in safety. Just get after it. Why not? Life is a game, filled with a series of other games. Play it at the highest level you can.
20. Peace > happiness. Peace is what we’re really after. Peace from negative thought patterns like envy, greed, fear, worry, sadness, weakness, desire, anger, and insecurity. Peace to live without the weight of these emotions. Peace to, well, live. Prioritize peace, and watch happiness result.
21. A man incapable of danger is not virtuous because he doesn’t endanger anyone. Weakness is not a virtue, if anything, it’s a sin. It’s a waste of potential. You have to be a monster, and then control it. You have to be as strong and as dangerous as you can be, while being as peaceful as you can be, until that danger is needed.
22. The weak virtue signal against the strong because they’re incapable of being strong. They can’t comprehend that strength is earned through discipline and effort. So, they label it as evil. Don’t look at someone great and see greed, find the work they did, the discipline, the risks they took, and take what you can admire and use in your own life.
23. Humor is the most overlooked, important aspect of life and how to live a good life. It’s the most overlooked aspect of endurance, of overcoming struggle and hardship and even evil. If you can crack jokes, bust balls, even make fun of yourself when everything is going to shit, you’ll be able to survive and even thrive amidst everything.
24. There is more value in hard times, in things going wrong, in struggle, than there is in good times. There’s more room to grow, more to learn, there’s even an opportunity to keep a calm head amidst chaos and catastrophe. I always realize this in hindsight. The challenge is applying the inevitable knowledge and feeling and appreciation for the struggle that comes after it is resolved, to the present while you’re going through it. If you can have a clear head while everyone else around you is going mad, you become not only robust in fending off failure because of the catastrophe, but antifragile as a result of something that would destroy most. You end up growing, evolving, improving, because of the negative.
25. If you can focus in the moment and focus in the long term, there’s little that can stand between you and success in any realm. Our attention is constantly being pulled in different directions, more than at any other time in history. This makes focus in the short and long term even more beneficial as you set yourself apart from the majority of your competition.
26. Make sure your beliefs benefit you. If you believe in hard work, you will hold it as a guiding principle. If you believe in merit, you will do what’s necessary over a long enough period to earn what you want. If, however, you believe that the rich are evil cheaters or are lucky, that the strong simply have better genetics, that nothing is earned, that everything is unfair, that you’re a victim, you will do none of the things required to get what you want.
27. Dealing in reality is a must. But being realistic isn’t. You have to deal in truth, in facts, but people confuse that with being realistic. Being realistic is simply degrading reality. It’s tempering what you pursue. There’s no point to it nor no benefit to it. Deal in reality, in truth, but don’t be realistic.
28. If you fear anything, fear regret. It’s a future feeling that you can work to eradicate in the present by working hard, sticking to your word, and being courageous.
29. Never desire something that is out of your control. If you want something, focus only on what is under your control. Example: if you want to get married to a great lady, forget about the lady and become a great man. Example: with wealth, build something great, forget about setting goals of earning X by Y, just build and allow things to come as they come. Be journey focused not end focused.
30. Be a generalist. Hire specialists. Commit to learning a lot about a lot of different things. Have enough knowledge to spot bullshit. Then hire the best. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about business or anything else. Specialists are hired, generalists hire.