“Somerset Maugham once wrote that in each shave lies a philosophy. I couldn’t agree more. No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.”
You might have encountered your own eureka moments where you’re not really doing anything and suddenly a great idea floats to the surface of your mind.
Why not use these moments to your advantage and experience them on a regular basis?
I’d always start my mornings with mundane activities — Tasks that don’t require much thinking — Washing the dishes, cleaning my study area, shaving.
Other than getting my creative thoughts going, it’s a great way of heating the engine and generating the momentum I need for the rest of the day.
You never would’ve thought that you could enjoy your mundane tasks.
“Lack of time is a lack of priorities.”
“I’m busy” is too common a phrase that’s uttered by students and working people. We say no to family time, no to the important catch-up session with an old pal.
But really, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Busy comes from not doing the hard thinking that goes into planning your day.
Busy comes from not setting your priorities for the day, busy comes from not knowing which 20% of your work gives 80% of your result (or which part of your work is the hardest and most important).
Busy comes from procrastinating on these hard things and spending too much time on the easy parts.
Busy comes from not saying no to unimportant things when you don’t have any looming deadlines on your plate. Busy comes from doing stupid things or not doing anything at all when you have time to work.
Busy yes, but more accurately — Busy idleness. It means you’re appearing to be busy, but you’re really not doing anything or achieving anything much.
To paraphrase Derek Sivers, busy means you’re out of control of your life.
All-nighters can be avoided by studying in very small chunks every day, instead of cramming information a few days before your exam.
Same goes to your assignments. But it’s hard to do this when everyone is else is playing the last minute card.
But would you rather be like everyone else or would you be better?
Think of this analogy given by Tim Ferriss when you’re doing work : You’re a lion — Which one are you going to eat — Field mice or antelope? If you busy yourself hunting the former, you’ll have some good snacks and feel good in the short run, but you’re probably going to end up starving to death. But if you chase the latter, you’ll get a good dinner, and a full stomach.
Which parts of your work are the field mice, and which ones are the antelope?
“If you have a closet full of clothes, and you try to keep them all, your life will get very small. But if you have a full closet and someone sees something they like, if you give it to them, the world is a better place.”
A senior from high school once taught me to make a good habit of giving gifts to other people, even in simple ways. Even better, be generous towards strangers — If you see a person working hard under the Sun, don’t hesitate to get him a cold bottle of water.
“When you see these people smile”, my senior told me, “That’s the coolest feeling in the world.”
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve never felt happier, and my world never feels small as I’m instantly freed from the pain of being self-centered.
There’s another Tim Ferriss exercise where he advices us to wish for the happiness of at least two random people, and notice the change that you’ll feel in yourself.
You can always pray for other people — Mention their names in your prayers — And it doesn’t matter how close or distant your relationship is to them.
Pray for their success, pray for all the good they can have, and you’ll be much happier instead of feeling resentful.
Who knows, your success might come from prayers of people whom you least suspect.
“One book — that cost $15 — could make you millions of dollars. Or help you meet the love of your life. Or give you an idea that changes the world. Or solve your anxiety or your resentment towards your parents.
But that can only happen if you pick one up and fucking read it.”
Not everyone can be convinced to love reading for its own sake, because not everyone loves the smell of books or the act of glancing at words on a page.
But everyone wants to improve their lives to certain extents, and that’s why one must never stop convincing others of the high ROI that one could get from reading a single book.
People — the massively successful and smart (and also some dumb ones) have distilled their wisdom and life lessons in the form of books for ages now. Whatever you need to know, whatever problems you might be facing as human being, chances are someone or some people have written about them already. So why go through the unnecessary toil of learning solely from your own experience when you can guide yourself from the experiences of others?
While books can be costly, there’s no better investment than your self-education. No price is too high to pay for owning yourself.
“The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
Deep inside, everyone has the need to be recognized for being themselves — No matter how well a person may hide or repress that.
We’re all naturally self-absorbed, we focus a lot of our energy and attention on our own problems and interests, and this affects how we interact with others.
We often complain about how a person doesn’t understand us. But reflect on how you converse with people — Do you see a person for who she is and what she actually likes, or are you projecting your own ideas and interests, and things that you wish to see in her?
The game changes when we shut off the “me-me-me” part of us, and a new world opens up for us when we put ourselves in the shoes of other people.
People are very interesting, and everyone has their own traits that make them unique.
Train yourself to talk less and listen more — Always make the other person feel special — People are actually dying to talk about themselves, to impart their wisdom to others.
You’ll not only get to develop better social skills, but your relationships with other people will be much more meaningful as you teach yourself to understand, more than to be understood.
“The years teach much which the days never know.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
You’ll get a much better view of everything when you see them from the vantage point of the future — The petty fights, worries, the stupidity — You can see and decide which of them matter to you, and which ones aren’t worth paying attention to.
So, increase your reaction time.
Don’t let yourself get emotionally carried away — By anger, or even by excitement. Give yourself some time to think of what things would mean in the long term — Would they still matter as much?
When it’s hard for you to do this, relax. Take a step back. When you’re angry, don’t speak. If you need to, sleep on it. Do anything that’s necessary so you can think past the day.
As human beings, we mostly react instead of think, thus our actions are based on insufficient information — During these times we tend to extrapolate. We make our problems worse than they actually are.
“Starving artists try to master one skill. Thriving artists acquire whatever skills necessary to get the job done.”
It’s good to be good at more than one thing.
Let your mind wander, let your curiosities lead you, take up as many different crafts that you’re passionate about.
Over time, you’ll be able to fuse them into an art that’s different from what’s already out there. As Steven Tomlinson said, “Let them talk to each other. Something will begin to happen.”
But of course, you have to know what your main craft is so that your interests can serve you in that particular direction.
Jack Kerouac’s love for jazz music played a pivotal part in his spontaneous approach to writing prose.
Leonardo da Vinci on the other hand mastered many different arts and sciences, but he was most of all, a painter. His taking up of various disciplines served in a singular direction — His impeccable attention to detail in his paintings. It was this single ability that gave his paintings so much life.
“Sometimes we get discouraged and turn to inspirational writing, like stuff from Vince Lombardi : ‘Quitters never win and winners never quit’. Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”
It takes a lot of guts to persevere in an endeavor. It takes much more guts to quit an endeavor that just isn’t for you.
Quit the right things — Things you don’t actually give much of a damn about — Maybe you just don’t love a certain field of study, maybe a business idea you embarked on just isn’t profitable but it’s too scary to decide that you don’t want to be sticking to it anymore.
Every endeavor has its own Dip — The long, hard slog of being great at what you do. It’s the tough process that determines whether you have what it takes to succeed in that path.
In Seth Godin’s words, “If you can’t make it through the Dip, don’t start. If you can embrace that simple rule, you’ll be a lot choosier about which journeys to start.”
If you know you’re not cut out for medicine, then don’t study to be a doctor. Your time and energy in life are limited. Don’t waste them on things that aren’t enmeshed with who you truly are and what you’re truly interested in.
“You don’t do your best work at rehearsal. You do your best work when you have to : when you’re on stage in front of a live audience, when the publisher is waiting for your manuscript, when everyone is waiting for you to step up.”
Often in life, we have to get ourselves to move before we are ready. Perfect circumstances may never come, and that’s why taking real action is always a lot better than staying in the realm of knowing and planning. When we fall, we can always recover from our mistakes and learn from them.
And of course, we get better.
Chris Rock has a habit of showing up unannounced at small shows and clubs. He uses this opportunity to test out his new material — Sometimes his audience laugh, most other times they would just cross their arms or laugh at him.
It is from these small shows that he gets to constantly improve and make great progress in his craft. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be seeing Chris Rock in a huge TV program or a major movie. In his words, failures are our training camps.
The Beatles had to play eight hour shows before they went on to become the giants that we know them best for. As John Lennon remarked, “In Liverpool, we just used to do our best numbers, the same ones at every gig. In Hamburg, we would play for eight hours, so we really had to find new ways of playing…We got better and got more confidence, playing all night long. It was handy, them being foreign. We had to try even harder, put our heart and soul into it, to get ourselves over.”