Musings on mortality
True human strength doesn’t lie in bursts of energy but in indestructible calm. - Tolstoy
Some musings on mortality as I age yet another year. I write about health, wealth, and wisdom because these are core tenets to a life well lived. Below are ideas and minds that have helped me along the way as I too strive to lead a life imbued with health, wealth, and happiness.
1) It used to be a commonly held belief that family comes first. This has somewhat changed over the last few decades, but for me, family is first. I guess that makes me old school. Put your family, friends, or significant other high on your priority list. Choose a a handful of truly close friends to a hundred pseudo-anonymous entities. Host parties, call your mom, and play with your kids.
2) One only gets one life to live (as far as we know)—this is probably it. Make it count. Time is ones most valuable resource. Time is extremely limited and goes by fast. Do what makes one happy and fulfilled—few people get remembered hundreds of years after they die anyway. A goal for many may be to be remembered by their great grandchildren. Are you doing anything that memorable? Avoid things that do not bring joy to ones life, either in the short term or the long term. Stress and negativity are not worth ones time. However, full hedonism is not the answer, one must jump off the hedonic treadmill at times and onto the real world assault bike.
3) How to succeed: pick the right thing to do (this is critical and usually ignored), focus, believe in oneself (especially when others tell you it’s not going to work), develop personal connections with people that will help, learn to identify talented people, and work hard. It’s hard to identify what to work on because original thought is hard. Once one finds what to work on, be relentless.
4) On work: it’s difficult to do a great job on work one does not care about. And it’s hard to be totally happy/fulfilled in life if one does not like what one does for work. Work very hard—a surprising number of people will be offended that one chooses to work hard—but not so hard that the rest of ones life passes by. Aim to be the best in the world at whatever ones does professionally. Even if one misses, one will probably end up in a pretty good place. Figure out ones productivity system—don’t waste time being unorganized, working at suboptimal times, etc. Don’t be afraid to take some career risks, especially early on. Most people pick their career fairly randomly—really think hard about what one likes, what fields are going to be successful, and try to talk to people in those fields.
5) On money: Whether or not money can buy happiness, it can buy freedom, and that’s a big deal. Also, lack of money is very stressful. In almost all ways, having enough money so that one does not stress about paying rent does more to change ones wellbeing than having enough money to buy a jet. Making money is often more fun than spending it, though I personally have never regretted money I’ve spent on family, new ventures, saving time, and travel.
6) Talk to people more. Read more long content and less tweets. Watch less TV. Spend less time on the Internet. Be a social animal in real life.
7) Don’t waste time. Most people waste most of their time, especially in business. “Write like you are running out of time.”
8) Don’t let yourself get pushed around. As one ascends ones career path one will come up against people that are tough to deal with. They can be jealous of ones success or fearful of losing ones own position. This is not a reason to stop pushing for success.
9) Have clear goals for yourself every day, every year, and every decade. One can use objectives and key results (OKR’s) if they are so inclined or a planning junkie. Have a plan and execute against it.
10) However, as valuable as planning is, if a great opportunity comes along one should take it. Don’t be afraid to do something slightly reckless. One of the benefits of working hard is that good opportunities will come along, but it’s still up to one to jump on them when they do.
11) Go out of ones way to be around smart, interesting, ambitious people. Work for them and hire them (in fact, one of the most satisfying parts of work is forging deep relationships with really good people). Try to spend time with people who are either among the best in the world at what they do or extremely promising but totally unknown. It really is true that one becomes an average of the people one spends the most time with.
12) Minimize ones own cognitive load from distracting things that don’t really matter. It’s hard to overstate how important this is, and how bad most people are at it. Get rid of distractions in ones life. Develop very strong ways to avoid letting things one does not like doing pile up and take mental cycles, especially in ones work life.
13) The Machiavellian allure. Don’t chase status. Status without substance doesn’t work for long and is unfulfilling. We live in a materialistic age so it makes sense for one to chase after things and prestige. This is a false path for one to traverse, rather one should seek true substance in the beautiful, noble, and heroic aspects of life. Stop worrying about the next pat on the back and focus on improving oneself and supporting ones family and friends.
14) Summers are the best. Double meaning, the summer season is splendid as one gets to experience the great outdoors in its apex form. One also has a remarkable time in the summer of ones life. The second epoch of ones life 25 years of age to 50 years of age are a time to mature and come into ones own. Building reputation, family, and legacy.
15) Seneca often said “Don’t worry so much”. Things in life are rarely as risky as they seem. Most people are too risk-averse, and so most advice is biased too much towards conservative paths.
16) Ask for what one wants.
17) If one thinks one is going to regret not doing something, one should probably do it. Regret is the worst, and most people regret far more things they didn’t do than things they did do. When in doubt, jump in with two feet.
18) Exercise. Eat well. Laugh. Sleep. Get out into nature with some regularity. Sun and steel.
19) Go out of ones way to help people. Few things in life are as satisfying. Be nice to strangers. Be nice even when it doesn’t matter. One never knows where the person they are interacting with will end up in the future. Act accordingly.
20) Youth is a really great thing. Don’t waste it. In fact, in ones 20s, it’s ok to take a “Give me financial discipline, but not just yet” attitude. All the money in the world will never get back time that passed one by.
21) Tell your parents one loves them more often. Go home and visit as often as one can.
22) This too shall pass. The only thing in the universe that is constant is change.
23) Learn voraciously. And at all stages of ones life.
24) Do new things often. This seems to be really important. Not only does doing new things seem to slow down the perception of time, increase happiness, and keep life interesting, but it seems to prevent people from calcifying in the ways that they think. Aim to do something big, new, and risky every year in your personal and professional life.
25) Remember how intensely one loved ones girlfriend when one was a teenager? Love her that intensely now. Remember how excited and happy one got about stuff as a kid? Get that excited and happy now. Sustained intensity is a super power.
26) Don’t screw people and don’t burn bridges. Pick ones battles wisely.
27) Forgive people.
28) Keep ones personal burn rate low. Ie don’t live above ones means. This alone will give one a lot of opportunities in life.
29) Follow the Aristotelian Golden Mean. Most things are fine in moderation. Almost nothing is fine in extreme amounts.
30) Heidegger writes that Existential angst is part of life. It is particularly noticeable around major life events or just after major career milestones. It seems to particularly affect smart, ambitious people. I think one of the reasons some people work so hard is so they don’t have to spend too much time thinking about this. Nothing is wrong with one for feeling this way; one is not alone.
31) Be grateful and keep problems in perspective. Don’t complain too much. Don’t hate other people’s success (but remember that some people will hate ones success, and one has to learn to ignore it). As the kids say haters gon hate…
32) Benjamin Franklin was famous for his activeness. Be a doer, not a talker.
33) Given enough time, it is possible to adjust to almost anything, good or bad. Humans are remarkable at this.
34) Think for a few seconds before action. Think for a few minutes if one is angry.
35) Don’t judge other people too quickly. One never know their whole story and why they did or didn’t do something. Be empathetic.
36) The minutes are long but the years are short. Anyone that has had or has children understands this pithy saying. Time with young children is warped as it feels both long and short. Truly the most beautiful time in ones life is to see ones children grow and blossom into sentient beings.