The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure by Grant Cardone

Here are my key takeaways from Grant Cardone’s book – the 10X Rule

1. You cannot get to the next level by doing the same things. Set targets that are 10 times what you think you want and then do 10 times what you think it will take to accomplish those targets. Massive thoughts must be followed by massive actions.

You must set targets that are 10 times what you think you want and then do 10 times what you think it will take to accomplish those targets. The 10X Rule is about pure domination mentality. You never do what others do. You must be willing to do what they won’t do—and even take actions that you might deem “unreasonable.” Almost every problem people face in their careers and other aspects of their lives—such as failed diets, marriages, and financial problems – are all the result of not taking enough action. Before you say to yourself for the millionth time, “I would be happy if I just had . . .” or “I don’t want to be rich – just comfortable” or “I just want enough to be happy,” you must understand one vital point: Limiting the amount of success you desire is a violation of the 10X Rule. When people start limiting the amount of success they desire, they will limit what will be required of them in order to achieve success and will fail miserably at doing what it takes to keep it.

2. As long as you are alive, you will either live to accomplish your own goals and dreams OR you will be used as a resource to accomplish someone else’s.

Any goal you set is going to be difficult to achieve, and you will inevitably be disappointed at some points along the way. So why not set these goals much higher than you deem worthy from the beginning? If they are going to require work, effort, energy, and persistence, then why not exert 10 times as much of each? What if you are underestimating your capabilities? You might be protesting, but what of the disappointment that comes from setting unrealistic goals? Take just a few moments to study history, or – even better – simply look back over your life. Chances are that you have more often been disappointed by setting targets that are too low and achieving them – only to be shocked that you still didn’t get what you wanted. You wouldn’t consider a diet “successful” if you lost 10 pounds and put on 12. In other words, you have to be able to keep success—not just get it. You would also want to improve upon that success to ensure that you do maintain it. Any desirable target or goal will always suggest something you have yet to accomplish. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve already attained.

3. 10X thinking helps you overcome difficulties you will inevitably face in your journey. Any goal attacked with the right actions in the right amounts with persistence is attainable.

When you miscalculate the efforts you need to make something happen, you become visibly disappointed and discouraged. This causes you to incorrectly identify the problem and sooner or later assume that the target is unattainable and ultimately quit. Most people’s—including managers’—first response is to reduce the target rather than increase their activity. A great manager will push a person to do more at the risk of coming up short, not target less. Never reduce a target. Instead, increase actions. Regardless of the timing, the economy, the product, or how big your venture is, the right acts done to the right degree over time will make you successful. Manage every action as though you have a camera on you every step of the way. Pretend you’re being recorded as a model by which your children and grandchildren will learn how to succeed in life. Attack everything with the ferociousness of a champion athlete who is getting his last opportunity to claim his pages in the history books. Make no excuses, and adopt a “take-no-prisoners” attitude.

4. Do not be shy to say you want success and growth. Success matters. Winning matters.

You must never reduce success in your mind or in a conversation to something that doesn’t matter! Anyone who minimizes the importance of success to your future has given up on his or her own chances of accomplishment and is spending his or her life trying to convince others to do the same. There are far too many “cute” sayings that seem to dismiss the importance of success, like “Success is a journey, not a destination.” Please! When terrible economic contractions occur, everyone quickly realizes they can’t eat or make house payments with cute little sayings. It is not enough just to play the game; it is vital that you learn to win at it.

5. Success is your duty, obligation and responsibility. Do not blame external factors – you control your destiny. Successful people create momentum by reaching their goals, which compels them to set—and eventually reach—even loftier goals.

Success is your duty, obligation, and responsibility. Treating success as an option is one of the major reasons why more people don’t create it for themselves. If you don’t consider it your duty to live up to your potential, then you simply won’t. If it doesn’t become an ethical issue for you, then you won’t feel obligated and driven to fulfill your capacity. It is fairly common for people who don’t get what they want to provide justifications—and even lie to themselves—by minimizing how valuable success is to them. Luck is just one of the byproducts of those who take the most action. Even the most fortunate and well-connected people among us must do something to put themselves in the right places at the right times in front of the right people. The reason why successful people seem lucky is because success naturally allows for more success.

6. Success is not a zero sum game – do not be constrained in your desire for success – success has no limits or shortages. Others being successful creates an opportunity for you to win as well – success is a positive contribution to all people.

Unlike a product that is manufactured and inventoried, there is no “limit” as to how much success can be created. You must rid yourself of the concept that success can be restricted in any way. Success for anyone or any group is ultimately a positive contribution to all people and all groups as it provides validation of the possibilities to all. Erase any concepts you might have that success is limited only to some and only in certain amounts. You and I can get as much as we want—at the same time. The moment you start thinking someone else’s gain is your loss, you limit yourself by thinking in terms of competition and shortages.

7. Do not play victim – you either create success or you don’t. Success isn’t for whiners, crybabies, and victims.

Success is not something that happens to you; it’s something that happens because of you and because of the actions you take. No game in life is truly enjoyable without first accepting control over how you play the game, and then the outcome of the game. People who assume the position of victim will never be secure—simply because they elect to turn over responsibility to another party. Assume control and increase responsibility by adopting the position that you make all things happen, even those things you have previously considered to not be under your control. Good things don’t happen to victims; bad things do—quite frequently—and all you have to do is ask them. Successful people take the opposite stance, and you must too: Everything that happens in your life comes as a result of your own responsibility, not merely some outside force.

8. Massive action will always benefit you – it will increase your chances of success. Doing nothing creates boredom, lack of purpose. Even doing “normal” levels of action creates mediocrity. Aim beyond average.

The more action you take, the better your chances are of getting a break. People who do nothing in their career, relationships, or whatever they want have probably given up on their dreams and are now willing to accept pretty much whatever comes their way. People in this group will find themselves spending their time and energy justifying their situations. The person not taking action has to make excuses for his or her condition; even this requires tremendous creativity and effort! People who take normal levels of action are probably the most prevalent in our society today. This level of action creates the middle class. As long as average works, they are fine with it. They don’t cause problems for others or themselves as long as conditions remain steady and predictable. Massive action is actually the level of action that creates new problems. You will end up instigating opportunities that you will have to address earlier, later, and in a different way than you would on a “normal” day, so a routine day will become a thing of the past. The only way to burst through obscurity is by taking massive action. But remember: If you don’t create new problems, then you’re not taking enough action. This activity will break you out of the hypnotic state of mediocrity that you’ve been taught to accept.

9. When you operate with an average mindset, it is easy to give up in the face of the slightest pressure. Anything you approach with an average mindset will eventually fail.

When average actions hit any resistance, competition, loss or lack of interest, negative or challenging market conditions, or all of these, you will find your project tumbling down. Average doesn’t work in any area of life. Anything that you give only average amounts of attention to will start to subside and will eventually cease to exist. Rid yourself of everything that is average including the advice you get and friends you keep.

10. 10X goals will help you stay motivated! They will fuel massive action.

The reality is that if you start small, you are probably going to go small. To maintain your enthusiasm, you have to make your goals substantial enough that they keep your attention. Average goal setting cannot and will not fuel massive 10X actions. The bigger and more unrealistic your goals are—and the more they’re aligned to your purpose and duty—the more they’ll energize and fuel your actions. Never set realistic goals; you can get a realistic life without setting goals for it.

11. Domination – not competition – is the aim.

Competing with others limits a person’s ability to think creatively because he or she is constantly watching what someone else is doing. Never make it your goal to compete. Instead, do everything you can to dominate your sector in order to avoid spending your time chasing someone else.

12. Be so obsessed about success that the world knows you will not compromise or go away. Obsession is like a fire; build it so big that people feel compelled to sit around it in admiration.

Most people make only enough effort for it to feel like work, whereas the most successful follow up every action with an obsession to see it through to a reward. If you become obsessed with your idea, purpose, or goal, you will become equally addicted to the idea of making it work. Become obsessed about the things you want; otherwise, you are going to spend a lifetime being obsessed with making up excuses as to why you didn’t get the life you wanted. Never cut anything, never dilute greatness, never pull back on your horsepower, and never put a limit on your ambition, drive, and passion. Demand obsession of yourself and all those around you.

13. Go all in when you’re solving problems – commit. Do not avoid problems – seek problems to solve all the time.

Overcommit your energy, resources, creativity, and persistence. Know that you are all in on every activity, every time you take action, every day you’re in business. You need new problems. They’re signs that you’re making progress and heading in the right direction. One of the major differences between successful and unsuccessful people is that the former look for problems to resolve, whereas the latter make every attempt to avoid them.

14. Whatever you fear most – do it now. Do not put it off or over analyze. Do it immediately.

The more time you devote to the object of your fear, the stronger it becomes. So starve the fear of its favorite food by removing time from its menu. For example, let’s say that John needs to make a call to a client, a task that immediately causes him to feel anxiety. So rather than picking up the phone and making the call immediately, he gets a cup of coffee and thinks about what he is going to do. His lengthy contemplation only causes his fear to grow, as he imagines all the ways the call could go badly and all the potentially terrible things that could happen. If confronted, he’s likely to claim that he needs to “prepare” before he makes the call. But preparation is merely an excuse for those who haven’t trained properly—and who use it as a reason to justify their last-minute reluctance. John needs to take a deep breath, pick up the phone, and just make the call. Last-minute preparation is just another way to feed the fear that will only get stronger as time is added. Nothing happens without action. The time is always now—and when you experience fear, it’s a sign that the best time to take action is at that very moment. Most people will not follow through with their goals when enough time has passed from the inception of their idea to actually doing something about it; however, if you remove time from your process, you’ll be ready to go. There’s simply no other choice than to act. There’s no need to prepare. It’s too late for that once you’ve gotten this far. Fear is a sign to do whatever it is you fear—and do it quickly. It does not take money or luck to create a great life; it requires the ability to move past your fears with speed and power.

15. Criticism is a natural outcome of success and attention. There’s no way to get serious levels of success without getting some attention. Don’t let your fear of criticism hold you back.

Most people don’t like being criticized. Criticism comes as a natural result of getting attention. This may be why some people avoid attention in the first place. Laying low in order to avoid attention (and consequently, criticism) probably means that you’re holding yourself back to some degree. Your fear of being attacked is keeping you from going for it completely

16. Excuses will never help your situation. They have no value. Do not make excuses, ever.

Excuses will never improve your situation. Do any of the following sound familiar? I don’t have the money, I have kids, I don’t have kids, I am married, I am not married, I have to find balance in my life, I am overworked, my manager sucks, people don’t tell me the truth, no one told me, I’m depressed, I’m sick, my mom is sick, traffic is terrible, the competition is giving its product away, I have such bad luck. . . . Bored yet? I know I am! Ask yourself, will any of these excuses ever improve your condition? Successful people simply don’t make excuses. They are actually quite unreasonable when it comes to providing reasons. The quality of being rare is what makes something valuable. So anything that is plentiful has very little worth. Excuses are one item that people seem to have an almost endless supply of. Because they are so plentiful, they have no value. Because they do not forward your desire to create more success for yourself, they are worthless uses of your energy.

17. Successful people commit to action. They don’t just “try” – they do.

The unsuccessful talk about a plan for action but never quite get around to doing what they claim they’re going to do. Unsuccessful people rarely commit to anything entirely. They are always talking about “trying”. Devoting yourself to something all the way means that there’s no backing out. Commit now – now means now—not a minute from now. Make your initial list of goals, then a list of actions that will propel you in that direction. Then—without overthinking it—start taking those actions. Do not get lost in the details of how to accomplish them.

18. Reach up in life – build relationships with people who are “better” than you. You will become the average of people you associate with.

The successful constantly talk about having people around them who are smarter, brighter, and more creative. It’s unlikely that you’ll hear one of them say, “I got here by surrounding myself with more people just like me.” Yet the average person typically spends his or her time with like-minded people or even those who bring less to the table than they can. Make a habit of “reaching up” in all of your relationships— toward people who are better connected, better educated, and even more successful. These individuals have much more to share than your supposed “equals.”

Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins

Here are my key takeaways from David Goggins’ inspirational book – Can’t Hurt Me. Click on the arrows to read more on that takeaway!

1. Everyone has challenges – acknowledge the obstacles you have faced in life and make peace with them. Use them to fuel your success, not to become a victim.

Everyone gets challenged in life at some point. What was your bad hand? What did you contend with growing up? Were you abused? Bullied? Did you ever feel insecure? Maybe your limiting factor is that you grew up so comfortable, you never pushed yourself? What are the current factors limiting your growth and success? Is someone standing in your way at work or school? Are you underappreciated and overlooked for opportunities? What are the odds you’re up against right now? Write down all your dirty laundry. Use your story, this list of excuses, these very good reasons why you shouldn’t amount to anything, to fuel your ultimate success

2. Whatever your goal, you’ll need to hold yourself accountable for the small steps it will take to get there. Self-improvement takes dedication and self-discipline. The dirty mirror you see every day is going to reveal the truth. Be honest with yourself – don’t sugar coat your shortcomings (If you’re fat, say you’re fat!). Then, make small goals and hold yourself 100% accountable to yourself on a daily basis! It’s all on you – nobody else is coming to save you.

When you have no confidence it becomes easy to value other people’s opinions. You need to be 100% accountable to yourself. Look in the mirror – if you don’t like what you see and are disgusted by it, it’s time to get real. It’s on you. Nobody is coming to save your ass! The Accountability Mirror is a strategy that kept me on point and I’ve found it useful for people at any stage in life. You could be on the cusp of retirement, looking to reinvent yourself. Maybe you’re going through a bad break- up or have gained weight. Perhaps you’re permanently disabled, or are just coming to grips with how much of your life you’ve wasted, living without purpose. In each case, that negativity you’re feeling is your internal desire for change, but change doesn’t come easy. I wasn’t fluffy. I was raw because that was the only way to get myself right. I didn’t dance around and say, “Geez, David, you are not taking your education very seriously.” No, I had to own it in the raw because the only way we can change is to be real with ourselves. If you don’t know shit and have never taken school seriously, then say, “I’m dumb!” Tell yourself that you need to get your ass to work because you’re falling behind in life! If you look in the mirror and you see a fat person, don’t tell yourself that you need to lose a couple of pounds. Tell the truth. You’re fucking fat! It’s okay. Just say you’re fat if you’re fat. The dirty mirror that you see every day is going to tell you the truth every time, so why are you still lying to yourself? If you have worked for thirty years doing the same shit you’ve hated day in and day out because you were afraid to quit and take a risk, you’ve been living like a pussy. Period, point blank. Tell yourself the truth! Your life is not fucked up because of overt racists or hidden systemic racism. You aren’t missing out on opportunities, making shit money, and getting evicted because of politicians or because your ancestors were slaves or because some people hate immigrants or harass women. If any of that shit is stopping you from excelling in life, I’ve got some news. You are stopping you! You are giving up instead of getting hard! Tell the truth about the real reasons for your limitations and you will turn that negativity, which is real, into jet fuel. Those odds stacked against you will become a damn runway! It’s okay to be cruel to yourself as long as you realize you’re doing it to become better. We all need thicker skin to improve in life. Being soft when you look in the mirror isn’t going to inspire the wholesale changes we need to shift our present and open up our future. I brainwashed myself into craving discomfort. If it was raining, I would go run. Whenever it started snowing, my mind would say, Get your fucking running shoes on. Sometimes I wussed out and had to deal with it at the Accountability Mirror. But facing that mirror, facing myself, motivated me to fight through uncomfortable experiences, and, as a result, I became tougher. And being tough and resilient helped me meet my goals. I knew that the confidence I’d managed to develop didn’t come from a perfect family or God-given talent. It came from personal accountability which brought me self respect, and self respect will always light a way forward.

3. The first step on the journey toward a strong (calloused) mind is stepping outside your comfort zone on a regular basis. Write down all the things you don’t like to do or that make you uncomfortable. Especially those things you know are good for you. Now go do one of them, and do it again. If you already do all those things, find something you aren’t doing. Doing things—even small things—that make you uncomfortable will help make you strong. The more often you get uncomfortable the stronger you’ll become, and soon you’ll develop a more productive, can-do dialogue with yourself in stressful situations.

I was numb. Numb to my life, miserable in my marriage, and I’d accepted that reality. I was just another zombie selling his time on earth, going through the motions. One day, I happened to watch a show that followed Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL (BUD/S) Training Class 224 through Hell Week: the most arduous series of tasks in the most physically demanding training in the military. I watched men sweat and suffer as they tore through muddy obstacle courses, ran on the soft sand holding logs overhead, and shivered in icy surf. They were swollen, chafed, sleep-deprived, and dead on their feet, and I was jealous of them. The longer I watched the more certain I became that there were answers buried in all that suffering. Answers that I needed. In a society where mediocrity is too often the standard and too often rewarded, there is intense fascination with men who detest mediocrity, who refuse to define themselves in conventional terms, and who seek to transcend traditionally recognized human capabilities. This is exactly the type of person BUD/S is meant to find. The man who finds a way to complete each and every task to the best of his ability. The man who will adapt and overcome any and all obstacles. I walked back to the bathroom, faced the mirror, and stared myself down. I looked every bit of 300 pounds. I was everything all the haters back home said I would be: uneducated, with no real world skills, zero discipline and dead end future. When was enough truly going to be enough? Was I willing to let my sorry present become a fucked-up future? How much longer would I wait, how many more years would I burn, wondering if there was some greater purpose out there waiting for me? I knew right then that if I didn’t make a stand and start walking the path of most resistance, I would end up in this mental hell forever. When depression smothers you, it blots out all light and leaves you with nothing to cling onto for hope. All you see is negativity. For me, the only way to make it through that was to feed off my depression. I had to flip it and convince myself that all that self-doubt and anxiety was confirmation that I was no longer living an aimless life. My task may turn out to be impossible but at least I was back on a motherfucking mission.

I had the Rocky soundtrack on cassette and I’d listen to Going the Distance for inspiration. On long bike rides and runs, with those horns blasting in my brain, I’d imagine myself going through BUD/S, diving into cold water, and crushing Hell Week. I was wishing, I was hoping, but by the time I was down to 250, my quest to qualify for the SEALs wasn’t a daydream anymore. I had a real chance to accomplish something most people, including myself, thought was impossible. Still, there were bad days. One morning not long after I dipped below 250,I weighed in and had only lost a pound from the day before. I had so much weight to lose I could not afford to plateau. That’s all I thought about while running six miles and swimming two. I was exhausted and sore when I arrived in the gym for my typical three-hour circuit. After rocking over 100 pull-ups in a series of sets, I was back on the bar for a max set with no ceiling. Going in, my goal was to get to twelve but my hands were burning fire as I stretched my chin over the bar for the tenth time. For weeks, the temptation to pull back had been ever present, and I always refused. That day, however, the pain was too much and after my eleventh pull-up, I gave in, dropped down, and finished my workout, one pull-up shy. That one rep stayed with me, along with that one pound. I tried to get them out of my head but they wouldn’t leave me the fuck alone. They taunted me on the drive home, and at my kitchen table while I ate a sliver of grilled chicken and a bland, baked potato. I knew I wouldn’t sleep that night unless I did something about it, so I grabbed my keys. “You cut corners and you are not gonna fucking make it,” I said out loud, as I drove back to the gym. “There are no shortcuts for you, Goggins!”I did my entire pull-up workout over again. One missed pull-up cost me an extra 250, and there would be similar episodes. Whenever I cut a run or swim short because I was hungry or tired, I’d always go back and beat myself down even harder. That was the only way I could manage the demons in my mind. Either way there would be suffering. I had to choose between physical suffering in the moment, and the mental anguish of wondering if that one missed pull-up, that last lap in the pool, the quarter mile I skipped on the road or trail, would end up costing me an opportunity of a lifetime. It was an easy choice.

4. There is one way to not only earn the respect of your opponents and turn the tables. Excellence. Whoever you’re dealing with, your goal is to make them watch you achieve what they could never have done themselves. You want them thinking how amazing you are. Take their negativity and use it to dominate their task with everything you’ve got. Take their soul!

Everything in life is a mind game! Whenever we get swept under by life’s dramas, large and small, we are forgetting that no matter how bad the pain gets, no matter how harrowing the torture, all bad things end. That forgetting happens the second we give control over our emotions and actions to other people, which can easily happen when pain is peaking. Taking Souls is a ticket to finding your own reserve power and riding a second wind. This is a tactic for you to be your best when duty calls. It’s a mind game you’re playing on yourself. Taking someone’s soul means you’ve gained a tactical advantage. Life is all about looking for tactical advantages, Once you’re in the heat of battle, it comes down to staying power. If it’s a difficult physical challenge you will probably have to defeat your own demons before you can take your opponent’s soul. That means rehearsing answers to the simple question that is sure to rise up like a thought bubble: “Why am I here?” If you know that moment is coming and have your answer ready, you will be equipped to make the split second decision to ignore your weakened mind and keep moving. Know why you’re in the fight to stay in the fight! And never forget that all emotional and physical anguish is finite! It all ends eventually. Smile at pain and watch it fade for at least a second or two. If you can do that, you can string those seconds together and last longer than your opponent thinks you can, and that may be enough to catch a second wind. And once you have that second wind behind you it’s easy to break your opponent down and snatch a soul. The hard part is getting to that point, because the ticket to victory often comes down to bringing your very best when you feel your worst.

5. Until you experience hardships your mind will remain soft and exposed. Life experience, especially negative experiences, help callous the mind. Remembering what you’ve been through and how that has strengthened your mindset can lift you out of a negative brain loop and help you bypass those weak, one-second impulses to give in so you can power through obstacles.

I remember my very first day in the gym back in Indiana. My palms were soft and quickly got torn up on the bars because they weren’t accustomed to gripping steel. But over time, after thousands of reps, my palms built up a thick callous as protection. The same principle works when it comes to mindset. Until you experience hardships like abuse and bullying, failures and disappointments, your mind will remain soft and exposed. Life experience, especially negative experiences, help callous the mind. But it’s up to you where that callous lines up. If you choose to see yourself as a victim of circumstance into adulthood, that callous will become resentment that protects you from the unfamiliar. It will make you too cautious and untrusting, and possibly too angry at the world. It will make you fearful of change and hard to reach, but not hard of mind. Similar to using an opponent’s energy to gain an advantage, leaning on your calloused mind in the heat of battle can shift your thinking as well. Remembering what you’ve been through and how that has strengthened your mindset can lift you out of a negative brain loop and help you bypass those weak, one-second impulses to give in so you can power through obstacles. And when you leverage a calloused mind and keep fighting through pain, it can help you push your limits because if you accept the pain as a natural process and refuse to give in and give up, you will engage the sympathetic nervous system which shifts your hormonal flow. The sympathetic nervous system is your fight or flight reflex. It’s bubbling just below the surface, and when you are lost, stressed out, or struggling, that’s the part of your mind that’s driving the bus. When you indulge in negative self-talk, the gifts of a sympathetic response will remain out of reach. However, if you can manage those moments of pain that come with maximum effort, by remembering what you’ve been through to get to that point in your life, you will be in a better position to persevere and choose fight over flight. That will allow you to use the adrenaline that comes with a sympathetic response to go even harder. The reason it’s important to push hardest when you want to quit the most is because it helps you callous your mind. It’s the same reason why you have to do your best work when you are the least motivated.

6. In the heat of battle, remember to reach into your cookie jar – a record of your past accomplishments, when you overcame the odds – no matter how small. In the heat of battle, at your lowest points, these cookies can reactivate your sympathetic nervous system and keep you going.

We all have a cookie jar inside us, because life, being what it is, has always tested us. Even if you’re feeling low and beat down by life right now, I guarantee you can think of a time or two when you overcame odds and tasted success. It doesn’t have to be a big victory either. It can be something small The engine in a rocket ship does not fire without a small spark first. We all need small sparks, small accomplishments in our lives to fuel the big ones. Think of your small accomplishments as kindling. When you want a bonfire, you don’t start by lighting a big log. But digging into the Cookie Jar when things are going south takes focus and determination because at first the brain doesn’t want to go there. It wants to remind you that you’re suffering and that your goal is impossible. It wants to stop you so it can stop the pain. When the pain hits and tries to stop you short of your goal, dunk your fist in, pull out a cookie, and let it fuel you! It’s not a hooray-for-me session. It’s to remember what a badass you are so you can use that energy to succeed again in the heat of battle!

7. Repeatedly reset your physical and mental baseline by pushing past your usual limits. The impulse to quit is universal – recognize your weaknesses and work on them repeatedly, moving your baseline for suffering higher every time.

We habitually settle for less than our best; at work, in school, in our relationships, and on the playing field or race course. The threshold for suffering is different for everybody. What’s universal is the impulse to succumb. To feel like you’ve given everything you can, and that you are justified in leaving a job undone. You’ll have to chase pain like it’s your damn job! Your job is to push past your normal stopping point. Whether you are running on a treadmill or doing a set of pushups, get to the point where you are so tired and in pain that your mind is begging you to stop. Then push just 5 to 10 percent further. Your body and mind to slowly adapt to your new workload. Imagine you’re a boxer, and on your first day in the ring you take one on your chin. It’s gonna hurt like fucking hell, but at year ten of being a boxer, you won’t be stopped by one punch. You’ll be able to absorb twelve rounds of getting beat the fuck down and come back the very next day and fight again. It’s not that the punch has lost power. Your opponents will be even stronger. The change has happened within your brain. You’ve calloused your mind. Over a period of time, your tolerance for mental and physical suffering will have expanded. People make the decision to quit much before they actually quit. You need to be present enough to recognize when the body and mind are starting to fail in order to short circuit the impulse to look for a way out . You should catalog your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Don’t ignore them. Be prepared for them, because in any endurance event, in any high-stress environment, your weaknesses will surface like bad karma, build in volume, and overwhelm you. Unless you get ahead of them first.

8. Stop wasting time or looking for quick fix hacks to life. The only way to self mastery is via a strong work ethic. Become addicted to hard work and to pushing your limits – the positive effects will flow into all aspects of your life.

Our culture has become hooked on the quick-fix, the life hack, efficiency. Everyone is on the hunt for that simple action algorithm that nets maximum profit with the least amount of effort. There’s no denying this attitude may get you some of the trappings of success, if you’re lucky, but it will not lead to a calloused mind or self mastery. If you want to master the mind, you’ll have to become addicted to hard work. Because passion and obsession, even talent, are only useful tools if you have the work ethic to back them up. Evaluate your life in its totality! We all waste so much time doing meaningless bullshit. We burn hours on social media and watching television, which by the end of the year would add up to entire days and weeks if you tabulated time like you do your taxes. You should, because if you knew the truth you’d deactivate your Facebook account STAT, and cut your cable. When you find yourself having frivolous conversations or becoming ensnared in activities that don’t better you in any way, move the fuck on! If you audit your life, skip the bullshit, and use backstops, you’ll find time to do everything you need and want to do. The sole reason I work out like I do isn’t to prepare for and win ultra races. I don’t have an athletic motive at all. It’s to prepare my mind for life itself. Life will always be the most grueling endurance sport, and when you train hard, get uncomfortable, and callous your mind, you will become a more versatile competitor, trained to find a way forward no matter what.

Zero to One – Peter Thiel

Here are 16 key takeaways from Peter Thiel’s book – Zero to One. The book has a ton of insights for those looking to start up their own business or even those who operate a business in a corporate setup.

1. Zero to One means doing something that nobody has done before – driving progress in previously unimagined ways.

Progress can take one of two forms. Horizontal or extensive progress means copying things that work – going from 1 to n. Horizontal progress is easy to imagine because we already know what it looks like. Vertical or intensive progress means doing new things – going from 0 to 1. Vertical progress is harder to imagine because it requires doing something nobody else has ever done. If you take one typewriter and build 100, you have made horizontal progress. If you have a typewriter and build a word processor, you have made vertical progress.

2. A startup allows new thinking and space to get things done

New technology tends to come from new ventures – startups. The easiest explanation for this is negative: it’s hard to develop new things in big organizations, and it’s even harder to do it by yourself. Bureaucratic hierarchies move slowly, and entrenched interests shy away from risk. In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work. At the other extreme, a lone genius might create a classic work of art or literature, but he could never create an entire industry. Startups operate on the principle that you need to work with other people to get stuff done, but you also need to stay small enough so that you actually can. Positively defined, a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. A new company’s most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think.

3. Think for yourself – draw your own conclusions instead of following crowd wisdom.

Several lessons could be drawn from the 90s dot-com crash, for example:

make incremental advances, stay lean, improve on the competition, focus on product not sales. However, the exact opposite lessons seem more correct: it is better to risk being bold rather than trivial (think big), a bad plan is better than no plan, competitive markets destroy profits, sales are as important as product. To build the next generation of companies, we must abandon the beliefs created after the crash. That doesn’t mean the opposite ideas are automatically true: you can’t escape the madness of crowds by dogmatically rejecting them. The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.

4. Creating value is not enough – you have to capture some of the value you create. The more differentiated your product, the higher your chances to build and capture value.

Creating value is not enough – you also need to capture some of the value you create. Even very big businesses can be bad businesses. For example, U.S. airline companies serve millions of passengers and create hundreds of billions of dollars of value each year. But in 2012 the airlines made only 37 cents per passenger trip. Compare them to Google, which creates less value but captures far more. Google brought in $50 billion in 2012 (versus $160 billion for the airlines), but it kept 21% of those revenues as profits – more than 100 times the airline industry’s profit margin that year. Google makes so much money that it’s now worth three times more than every U.S. airline combined. If you want to create and capture lasting value, don’t build an undifferentiated commodity business.

5. Monopoly profits (from highly differentiated offerings) allow for not just value capture but also the ability to transcend the daily brute struggle for survival.

If you offer affordable food with low margins, you can probably pay employees only minimum wage. And you’ll need to squeeze out every efficiency: that’s why small restaurants put Grandma to work at the register and make the kids wash dishes in the back. The competitive ecosystem pushes people toward ruthlessness or death.
A monopoly like Google is different. Since it doesn’t have to worry about competing with anyone, it has wider latitude to care about its workers, its products, and its impact on the wider world. Google’s motto—“Don’t be evil”—is in part a branding ploy, but it’s also characteristic of a kind of business that’s successful enough to take ethics seriously without jeopardizing its own existence. In business, money is either an important thing or it is everything. Monopolists can afford to think about things other than making money; non-monopolists can’t. In perfect competition, a business is so focused on today’s margins that it can’t possibly plan for a long-term future. Only one thing can allow a business to transcend the daily brute struggle for survival: monopoly profits.

6. Tech companies that can take time (and investment) to build but can capture monopolistic profits in future are favored by investors (hence high valuations).

Escaping competition will give you a monopoly, but even a monopoly is only a
great business if it can endure in the future. Compare the value of the New York Times Company with Twitter. Each employs a few thousand people, and each
gives millions of people a way to get news. But when Twitter went public in 2013, it was valued at $24 billion—more than 12 times the Times’s market capitalization even though the Times earned $133 million in 2012 while Twitter lost money. What explains the huge premium for Twitter? The answer is cash flow. A great business is defined by its ability to generate cash flows in the future. Investors expect Twitter will be able to capture monopoly profits over the next decade. Simply stated, the value of a business today is the sum of all the money it will make in the future. An Old Economy business (like a newspaper) might hold its value if it can maintain its current cash flows for five or six years, but their cash flows will probably dwindle over the next few years when customers move on to newer and trendier alternatives. Technology companies follow the opposite trajectory. They often lose money for the first few years: it takes time to build valuable things, and that means delayed revenue. Most of a tech company’s value will come at least 10 to 15 years in the future.

If you focus on near-term growth above all else, you miss the most important
question you should be asking: will this business still be around a decade from now? Numbers alone won’t tell you the answer; instead you must think critically about the qualitative characteristics of your business.

7. Proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale and branding – these drive monopoly effects.

Analyzing your business according to a few characteristics can help you think about how to make it durable.

1) Proprietary technology is the most substantive advantage a company can have because it makes your product difficult or impossible to replicate. Proprietary technology must be at least 10X better than its closest substitute in some important dimension to lead to a real monopolistic advantage.

2) Network effects make a product more useful as more people use it. For example, if all your friends are on Facebook, it makes sense for you to join Facebook, too.
3) Scale A monopoly business gets stronger as it gets bigger: the fixed costs of creating a product (engineering, management, office space) can be spread out over ever greater quantities of sales. Software startups can enjoy especially dramatic economies of scale because the marginal cost of producing another copy of the product is close to zero. Service businesses are difficult to make monopolies.

4) Branding: A company has a monopoly on its own brand by definition, so creating a strong brand is a powerful way to claim a monopoly.

8. Start small – dominate a niche market before expanding.

Every startup is small at the start. Every monopoly dominates a large share of its
market. Therefore, every startup should start with a very small market. Always err on the side of starting too small. The reason is simple: it’s easier to dominate a small market than a large one. Any big market is a bad choice, and a big market already served by competing companies is even worse. Even if you do succeed in gaining a small foothold, you’ll have to be satisfied with keeping the lights on: cutthroat competition means your profits will be zero. Once you create and dominate a niche market, then you should gradually expand into related and slightly broader markets. Amazon shows how it can be done. Jeff Bezos very deliberately started with books. Amazon became the dominant solution for anyone located far from a bookstore or seeking something unusual. Amazon then had two options: expand the number of people who read books, or expand to adjacent markets. They chose the latter, starting with the most similar markets: CDs, videos, and software. Amazon continued to add categories gradually until it had become the world’s general store. Sequencing markets correctly is underrated, and it takes discipline to expand gradually. The most successful companies make the core progression—to first dominate a specific niche and then scale to adjacent markets- a part of their founding narrative.

9. Focus on cash flows into the future

You’ve probably heard about “first mover advantage”: if you’re the first entrant into
a market, you can capture significant market share while competitors scramble to get started. But moving first is a tactic, not a goal. What really matters is generating cash flows in the future, so being the first mover doesn’t do you any good if someone else comes along and unseats you.

10. Do not be a hostage to “luck” – you can control your own (and your startup’s) destiny

The most contentious question in business is whether success comes from luck or skill. You can expect the future to take a definite form or you can treat it as hazily
uncertain. If you treat the future as something definite, it makes sense to understand it in advance and to work to shape it. But if you expect an indefinite future ruled by randomness, you’ll give up on trying to master it. When people lack concrete plans to carry out, they use formal rules to assemble a portfolio of options. A definite view, by contrast, favors firm convictions. A definite person determines the one best thing to do and then does it. A business with a good definite plan will always be underrated in a world where people see the future as random. A startup is the largest endeavor over which you can have definite mastery. You can have agency not just over your own life, but over a small and important part of the world. It begins by rejecting the unjust tyranny of Chance. You are not a lottery ticket.

11. A few big bets produce the biggest outcomes – spraying and praying is suboptimal when aiming for outsized returns and domination.

The power law – so named because exponential equations describe severely unequal distributions – is the law of the universe (for example, a small number of objects in the solar system comprise a vast majority of its mass). Venture returns follow a power law: a small handful of companies radically outperform all others. If you focus on diversification instead of single-minded pursuit of the very few companies that can become overwhelmingly valuable, you’ll miss those rare companies in the first place. VCs must find the handful of companies that will successfully go from 0 to 1. An entrepreneur makes a major investment just by spending her time working on a startup. When you choose a career, you act on your belief that the kind of work you do will be valuable decades from now. Investors who understand the power law make as few investments as possible. People who understand the power law will hesitate more than others when it comes to founding a new venture: they know how tremendously successful they could become by joining the very best company while it’s growing fast. You could have 100% of the equity if you fully fund your own venture, but if it fails you’ll have 100% of nothing. Owning just 0.01% of Google, by contrast, is incredibly valuable (more than $35 million as of this writing). Time and decision-making themselves follow a power law, and some moments matter far more than others. In a power law world, you can’t afford not to think hard about where your actions will fall on the curve.

12. Opportunities present themselves to those who actively seek them

You can’t find secrets without looking for them. The actual truth is that there are many more secrets left to find, but they will yield only to relentless searchers. The same is true of business. Great companies can be built on open but unsuspected secrets about how the world works. Consider the Silicon Valley startups that have harnessed the spare capacity that is all around us but often ignored. Before Airbnb, travelers had little choice but to pay high prices for a hotel room, and property owners couldn’t easily and reliably rent out their unoccupied space. Airbnb saw untapped supply and unaddressed demand where others saw nothing at all. The same is true of private car services Lyft and Uber. Few people imagined that it was possible to build a billion-dollar business by simply connecting people who want to go places with people willing to drive them there.

13. Build your business on solid foundations – a startup with a bad foundation cannot be fixed

A startup messed up at its foundation cannot be fixed. Bad decisions made early on – if you choose the wrong partners or hire the wrong people, for example—are very hard to correct after they are made. It may take a crisis on the order of bankruptcy before anybody will even try to correct them. As a founder, your first job is to get the first things right, because you cannot build a great company on a flawed foundation. To anticipate likely sources of misalignment in any company, it’s useful to distinguish between three concepts:
• Ownership: who legally owns a company’s equity?
• Possession: who actually runs the company on a day-to-day basis?
• Control: who formally governs the company’s affairs?
A typical startup allocates ownership among founders, employees, and investors.
The managers and employees who operate the company enjoy possession. And a
board of directors, usually comprising founders and investors, exercises control.

As a general rule, everyone you involve with your company should be involved fulltime. Anyone who doesn’t own stock options or draw a regular salary from your company is fundamentally misaligned. Even working remotely should be avoided, because misalignment can creep in whenever colleagues aren’t together full-time, in the same place, every day. If you get the founding moment right, you can do more than create a valuable company: you can steer its distant future toward the creation of new things instead of the stewardship of inherited success. You might even extend its founding indefinitely.

14. Equity ownership creates better aligned incentives than salary

A company does better the less it pays the CEO. High pay incentivizes him to defend the status quo along with his salary, not to work with everyone else to surface problems and fix them aggressively. A cash-poor executive will focus on increasing the value of the company as a whole. Startups don’t need to pay high salaries because they can offer something better: part ownership of the company itself. Equity is the one form of compensation that can effectively orient people toward creating value in the future. Startups don’t need to pay high salaries because they can offer something better: part ownership of the company itself. Equity is the one form of compensation that can effectively orient people toward creating value in the future. Since it’s impossible to achieve perfect fairness when distributing ownership, founders would do well to keep the details secret. Anyone who prefers owning a part of your company to being paid in cash reveals a preference for the long term and a commitment to increasing your company’s value in the future. Equity can’t create perfect incentives, but it’s the best way for a founder to keep everyone in the company broadly aligned.

14. Recruit people who are similar in their belief in the startup and aligned to its core values – but bring in complementary skillsets and have clearly defined roles

Recruiting is a core competency for any company. It should never be outsourced.
You need people who are not just skilled on paper but who will work together cohesively after they’re hired. You’ll attract the employees you need if you can explain why your mission is compelling. However, even a great mission is not enough. The kind of recruit who would be most engaged as an employee will also wonder: “Are these the kind of people I want to work with?” You should be able to explain why your company is a unique match for him personally. Startups have limited resources and small teams. They must work quickly and efficiently in order to survive, and that’s easier to do when everyone shares an understanding of the world. On the inside, every individual should be sharply distinguished by her work. Every employee’s one thing should be unique, and should be evaluated only on that one thing – defining roles reduces conflict.

15. Customers will not come just because you build it – you have to drive sales

Customers will not come just because you build it. If you’ve invented something new but you haven’t invented an effective way to sell it, you have a bad business—no matter how good the product. Superior sales and distribution by itself can create a monopoly, even with no product differentiation. The converse is not true. Two metrics set the limits for effective distribution. The total net profit that you earn on average over the course of your relationship with a customer (Customer Lifetime Value, or CLV) must exceed the amount you spend on average to acquire a new customer (Customer Acquisition Cost, or CAC). In general, the higher the price of your product, the more you have to spend to make a sale. In between personal sales (salespeople required; high value products) and traditional advertising (no salespeople required) there is a dead zone. Suppose you create a software service that helps convenience store owners track their inventory and manage ordering. For a product priced around $1,000, there might be no good distribution channel to reach the small businesses that might buy it. Marketing and advertising work for relatively low-priced products that have mass appeal but lack any method of viral distribution. Advertising can work for startups, too, but only when your customer acquisition costs and customer lifetime value make every other distribution channel uneconomical. A product is viral if its core functionality encourages users to invite their friends to become users too: every time someone shares with a friend or makes a payment, they naturally invite more and more people into the network. This isn’t just cheap—it’s fast, too.

One of these methods is likely to be far more powerful than every other for any given business: distribution follows a power law of its own. This is counterintuitive for most entrepreneurs, who assume that more is more. But the kitchen sink approach—employ a few salespeople, place some magazine ads, and try to add some kind of viral functionality to the product as an afterthought—doesn’t work. Most businesses get zero distribution channels to work: poor sales rather than bad product is the most common cause of failure. If you can get just one distribution channel to work, you have a great business. If you try for several but don’t nail one, you’re finished.

16. Summary – the 7 questions every startup must answer
  1. The Engineering Question: Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
  2. The Timing Question: Is now the right time to start your particular business?
  3. The Monopoly Question: Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
  4. The People Question: Do you have the right team?
  5. The Distribution Question: Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
  6. The Durability Question: Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
  7. The Secret Question: Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?

12 Rules for Life – Jordan B Peterson

Here are 12 key takeaways from Jordan Pearson’s 12 Rules For Life. Click on the arrows to read more on that takeaway! The book is really comprehensive and I have extracted / occasionally paraphrased key ideas that resonated with me.

1. Project confidence – Stand up straight, shoulders back, look straight ahead.

Your brain has a chemical called serotonin. Low serotonin means decreased confidence. Low serotonin means less happiness, more pain and anxiety, more illness, and a shorter lifespan. Low serotonin means a higher probability of “defeat”. With each subsequent “defeat” the level of serotonin actually gets lower, producing a cycle of defeat, lower confidence and further defeats. Higher serotonin produces confidence, sense of security, ability to play for the long term, and generates “victories”. Each victory feeds into a positive cycle that then generates more serotonin / confidence and more victories. This also shows up in how we act and project ourselves. Feedback loops are critical – project yourself as miserable and defeated, give up your fair share once, and you will open yourself up to more exploitation and further defeats. So stand up for yourself and project confidence even when you don’t feel like it. Body language is part of a positive feedback loop – stand up straight, shoulders back – and people will be more likely start to treat you as someone competent, feeding into a positive feedback loop that will generate more victories.

2. Define your purpose and principles – articulate them and stand up for them, Take responsibility for your own care and demand fairness in relationships.

You would have heard – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This has nothing to do with being nice. If I am someone’s friend, family member, or lover, then I am morally obliged to bargain as hard on my own behalf as they are on theirs. If I fail to do so, I will end up a slave, and the other person a tyrant. It much better for any relationship when both partners are strong. You deserve some respect. You are important to other people, as much as to yourself. You have some vital role to play in the world. You are, therefore, morally obliged to take care of yourself. You should take care of, help and be good to yourself the same way you would take care of, help and be good to someone you loved and valued. The ability to command fairness in relationships starts with self reflection. You need to know where you are, so you can start to chart your course. You need to know where you are going, so that you can stand up for your rights. You have to articulate your own principles, so that you can defend yourself against others if they seem to be taking inappropriate advantage of you. You must keep the promises you make to yourself, and reward yourself, so that you can trust and motivate yourself. Choose your destination and articulate your self. “He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.” 

3. Surround yourself with friends who want the best for you.  

Sometimes, when people have a low opinion of their own worth, they choose a friend who they know could be troublesome. Such people don’t believe that they deserve any better. Sometimes, people choose such friends because they want to rescue someone. But not everyone who is failing is a victim, and not everyone at the bottom wishes to rise.  If I stay in an unhealthy relationship with you, perhaps it’s because I’m too weak-willed and indecisive to leave. If you have a friend whose friendship you wouldn’t recommend to your sister, or your father, or your son, why would you have such a friend for yourself? You are not morally obliged to support someone who is making the world a worse place. It’s a good thing, not a selfish thing, to choose people who are good for you. If you surround yourself with people who support your upward aim, they will encourage you when you do good and punish you carefully when you do not. This will help bolster your resolve to do what you should do. Make friends with people who want the best for you.

4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Do not compare yourself with others. Aim to be a little bit better, every day.

No matter how good you are at something, there is someone out there who makes you look incompetent. However, there is not just one game at which to succeed or fail. If you don’t succeed at one, try another. You can pick something better matched to your unique mix of strengths, weaknesses and situation. If changing games does not work, you can invent a new one. It’s also unlikely that you’re playing only one game. You have a career and friends and family members and personal projects and artistic endeavors and athletic pursuits. You might consider judging your success across all the games you play. You might object: I should be winning at everything! But winning at everything might only mean that you’re not doing anything new or difficult. Set the following goal: by the end of the day, I want things in my life to be a tiny bit better than they were this morning. And you do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. And, with each day, your baseline of comparison gets a little higher, and that’s magic. That’s compound interest. Do that for three years, and your life will be entirely different. Now you’re aiming for something higher. What you aim at determines what you see!

5. Do not let children do anything that makes you dislike them 

Modern parents fear that they will no longer be liked or even loved by their children if they punish them for any reason. This is not good. It is an act of responsibility to discipline a child. Proper discipline requires effort. Every child should also be taught to comply gracefully with the expectations of civil society. This does not mean crushed into mindless ideological conformity. It means instead that parents must reward those attitudes and actions that will bring their child success in the world outside the family, and use threat and punishment when necessary to eliminate behaviors that will lead to misery and failure. The penalties for misbehavior become increasingly severe as children get older. You’re not doing your child any favors by overlooking any misbehavior. Parents have a duty to act as proxies for the real world. You love your kids. If their actions make you dislike them, think what an effect they will have on other people, who care much less about them than you. Those other people will punish them, severely, by omission or commission. Don’t allow that to happen. Better to let your children know what is desirable and what is not, so they become sophisticated denizens of the world outside the family. 

6. Focus on improving yourself, before trying to improve others and the world

Clean Up Your Life. Consider your circumstances. Start small. Have you taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to you? Are you working hard on your career, or even your job, or are you letting bitterness and resentment hold you back? Do you have habits that are destroying your health and well-being? Are you truly shouldering your responsibilities? Have you said what you need to say to your friends and family members? Have you cleaned up your life? If the answer is no: Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong. Start stopping today. Don’t waste time questioning how you know that what you’re doing is wrong. Inopportune questioning can confuse, as well as deflect you from action. You can know that something is wrong or right without knowing why. Life is short, and you don’t have time to figure everything out on your own. Let your own soul guide you. Watch what happens over the days and weeks. When you are at work you will begin to say what you really think. You will start to tell your wife, or your husband, or your children, or your parents, what you really want and need. Your head will start to clear up, as you stop filling it with lies. After some months and years of diligent effort, your life will become simpler and less complicated. Your judgment will improve. You will become stronger and less bitter. You will move more confidently into the future.

7. Pursue what is meaningful not what is easy

Life is suffering. Life is short. What in the world should be done about that? The simplest, most obvious, and most direct answer? Pursue pleasure. Follow your impulses. Live for the moment. Lie, cheat, steal, deceive, manipulate—but don’t get caught. In an ultimately meaningless universe, what possible difference could it make? The pleasure of expediency may be fleeting, but it’s pleasure, nonetheless. Why not simply take everything you can get, whenever the opportunity arises? The realization that pleasure could be usefully forestalled dawned on us with great difficulty. It runs absolutely contrary to our ancient, fundamental animal instincts, which demand immediate satisfaction (particularly under conditions of deprivation, which are both inevitable and commonplace). Expedience is the following of blind impulse. It’s short-term gain. Meaning is its mature replacement. Meaning emerges when impulses are regulated, organized and unified. Meaning emerges from the interplay between the possibilities of the world and the value structure operating within that world. If the value structure is aimed at the betterment of Being, the meaning revealed will be life-sustaining. It will provide the antidote for chaos and suffering. It will make everything matter. It will make everything better. If you act properly, your actions allow you to be psychologically integrated now, and tomorrow, and into the future, while you benefit yourself, your family, and the broader world around you. Everything will stack up and align along a single axis. Everything will come together. This produces maximal meaning. Meaning trumps expedience. Meaning gratifies all impulses, now and forever. To have meaning in your life is better than to have what you want, because you may neither know what you want, nor what you truly need. Meaning is something that comes upon you, of its own accord. You can set up the preconditions, you can follow meaning, when it manifests itself, but you cannot simply produce it, as an act of will. Meaning signifies that you are in the right place, at the right time, properly balanced between order and chaos, where everything lines up as best it can at that moment. Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient.

8. Tell the Truth. Speaking your mind puts your actions in harmony with your true desires.

If you say no to your boss, or your spouse, or your mother, when it needs to be said, you transform yourself into someone who can say no when it needs to be said. If you say yes when no needs to be said, however, you transform yourself into someone who can only say yes, even when it is very clearly time to say no. If you betray yourself, if you act out a lie, you weaken your character. If you have a weak character, then adversity will mow you down when it appears, as it will, inevitably. Set your ambitions, even if you are uncertain about what they should be. The better ambitions have to do with the development of character and ability, rather than status and power. Status you can lose. You carry character with you wherever you go, and it allows you to prevail against adversity. Imagine: you go to engineering school, because that is what your parents desire—but it is not what you want. Working at cross-purposes to your own wishes, you find yourself unmotivated, and failing. Your soul will reject the tyranny of your will. Why are you complying? You may not want to disappoint your parents (although if you fail you will do exactly that). You may lack the courage for the conflict necessary to free yourself. You may continue believing that there is someone who knows you better than you know yourself, and who also knows all about the world. You suffer because you are truly not meant to be an engineer. One day you have had enough. You drop out. You disappoint your parents. You learn to live with that. You consult only yourself, even though that means you must rely on your own decisions. You take a philosophy degree. You accept the burden of your own mistakes. You become your own person. By rejecting your father’s vision, you develop your own. And then, as your parents age, you’ve become adult enough to be there for them, when they come to need you. They win, too. But both victories had to be purchased at the cost of the conflict engendered by your truth. As you continue to live in accordance with the truth, as it reveals itself to you, you will have to accept and deal with the conflicts that mode of Being will generate. If you do so, you will continue to mature and become more responsible. You will ever more closely approach your newer and more wisely formulated goals, and become even wiser in their formulation. Your conception of what is important will become more and more appropriate. You will quit wildly oscillating and walk evermore directly towards the good. Everyone needs a concrete, specific goal—an ambition, and a purpose—to limit chaos and make intelligible sense of his or her life. But all such concrete goals can and should be subordinated to what might be considered a meta-goal, which is a way of approaching and formulating goals themselves. The meta-goal could be “live in truth.” If your life is not what it could be, try telling the truth. If you feel weak and rejected, and desperate, and confused, try telling the truth. Tell the truth. Or, at least, don’t lie.

9. Learn to listen, including to yourself.

People need to think. When people think, they simulate the world, and plan how to act in it. We simulate the world, and plan our actions in it. We make little avatars of ourselves. We place those avatars in fictional worlds. Then we watch what happens. If our avatar thrives, then we act like he does, in the real world. Then we thrive (we hope). If our avatar fails, we don’t go there. People think they think, but it’s not true. It’s mostly self-criticism that passes for thinking. Thinking is listening to yourself. It’s difficult. To think, you have to be at least two people at the same time. Then you have to let those people disagree. Thinking is an internal dialogue between two or more different views of the world. Viewpoint One is an avatar in a simulated world. It has its own representations of past, present and future, and its own ideas about how to act. So do Viewpoints Two, and Three, and Four. Thinking is the process by which these internal avatars imagine and articulate their worlds to one another.

People organize their brains with conversation. If they don’t have anyone to tell their story to, they lose their minds. Like hoarders, they cannot unclutter themselves. The input of the community is required for the integrity of the individual psyche. To put it another way: It takes a village to organize a mind. So, listen, to yourself and to those with whom you are speaking. Your wisdom then consists not of the knowledge you already have, but the continual search for knowledge. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

10. Be precise in your speech – say exactly what you mean.

Precision specifies. When something terrible happens, it is precision that
separates the unique terrible thing that has actually happened from all the
other, equally terrible things that might have happened—but did not. This can avoid making topics too complex or ambiguous to handle. Be careful with what you tell yourself and others about what you have done, what you are doing, and where you are going. Search for the correct words. Organize those words into the correct sentences, and those sentences into the correct paragraphs. You must determine where you have been in your life, so that you can know where you are now. You must determine where you are going in your life, because you cannot get there unless you move in that direction. Random wandering will not move you forward. It will instead disappoint and frustrate you and make you anxious and unhappy. Say what you mean, so that you can find out what you mean. Act out what you say, so you can find out what happens. Then pay attention. Note your errors. Articulate them. Strive to correct them. That is how you discover the meaning of your life. Admit to what you want. Tell those around you who you are. Narrow, and gaze attentively, and move forward, forthrightly. Be precise in your speech.

11. Articulate your wants and do not bottle them up.

If you cannot understand why someone did something, look at the consequences—and infer the motivation. When someone claims to be acting from the highest principles, for the good of others, there is no reason to assume that the person’s motives are genuine. People motivated to make things better usually aren’t concerned with changing other people—or, if they are, they take responsibility for making the same changes to themselves (and first). Insufficiently aggressive women—and men, although more rarely—do too much for others. They tend to treat those around them as if they were distressed children. They tend to be naïve. They assume that cooperation should be the basis of all social transactions, and they avoid conflict. They continually sacrifice for others. This can become counterproductively one-sided. Because too-agreeable people bend over backwards for other people, they do not stand up properly for themselves. Assuming that others think as they do, they expect—instead of ensuring—reciprocity for their thoughtful actions. When this does not happen, they don’t speak up. They do not or cannot straightforwardly demand recognition. The dark side of their characters emerges, because of their subjugation, and they become resentful. There are only two major reasons for resentment: being taken advantage of (or allowing yourself to be taken advantage of), or whiny refusal to adopt responsibility and grow up. If you’re resentful, look for the reasons. Are you feeling hard done by, in an immature manner? If, after some honest consideration, you don’t think it’s that, perhaps someone is taking advantage of you. This means that you now face a moral obligation to speak up for yourself. You must also know clearly what you want out of the situation, and be prepared to clearly articulate your desire. It’s a good idea to tell the person you are confronting exactly what you would like them to do instead of what they have done or currently are doing. If you try to determine exactly what you want, you might find that it is more difficult than you think. The person oppressing you is likely no wiser than you, especially about you. Tell them directly what would be preferable, instead, after you have sorted it out. Make your request as small and reasonable as possible—but ensure that its fulfillment would satisfy you. In that manner, you come to the discussion with a solution, instead of just a problem.

12. Remember to step back and be grateful for even the smaller pleasures

We have limitation. If you are already everything, everywhere, always, there is nowhere to go and nothing to be. Everything that could be already is, and everything that could happen already has. No limitation, no Being. Existence and limitation are linked. Perhaps this is because Being requires Becoming, perhaps, as well as mere static existence—and to become is to become something more, or at least something different. Of course, it’s one thing to say, “Being requires limitation,” and then to go about happily, when the sun is shining and your father is free of Alzheimer’s disease and your kids are healthy and your marriage happy. But when things go wrong? You must stay functional through all of them. When worries associated with the crisis arise, remind yourself that you will think them through, during a scheduled period dedicated to this. The parts of your brain that generate anxiety are more interested in the fact that there is a plan than in the details of the plan. Don’t schedule your time to think in the evening or at night. Then you won’t be able to sleep. If you can’t sleep, then everything will go rapidly downhill. Shift the unit of time you use to frame your life. When the sun is shining, and times are good, and the crops are bountiful, you can make your plans for the next month, and the next year, and the next five years. You can even dream a decade ahead. Put the things you can control in order. Repair what is in disorder, and make what is already good better. If you pay careful attention, even on a bad day, you may be fortunate enough to be confronted with small opportunities of just that sort. Maybe you will see a little girl dancing on the street because she is all dressed up in a ballet costume. Maybe you will have a particularly good cup of coffee. And maybe when you are going for a walk and your head is spinning a sign will show up and if you pay attention to it then you will get a reminder for just fifteen seconds of the wonder of Being.

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