Last updated: 2023.04.23

A cursed fact of the world is that the most important life lessons you learn are the hardest to communicate to others. They always sound like clichés. In any case, these are a few things I’ve learned from experience and that I try and keep in mind.

  1. Think about what makes you ‘imbalanced’ as a personality, & do things where this gives you an edge.
  2. Once you are ok with people telling you ‘no’, you can ask for whatever you want. 
  3. Fun is underrated. Figure out how to have fun, follow what’s interesting. The best and most creative work comes from a root of joy and excitement
  4. Environment matters a lot; move to where you flourish maximally. Put yourself in environments where you have to perform to your utmost; if you can get by being average, you probably will. (The Greeks had a saying: “A captain only shows during a storm.”)
  5. Later, you’ll be nostalgic for right now.
  6. Do things fast. Things don’t actually take much time, resistance/procrastination does. “Slow is fake”. 
  7. Wealth can be created, there is not a fixed amount of it in the world. Somebody doing well doesn’t always come at someone else’s expense.
  8. The world is a museum of passion projects.”
  9. Everybody wastes a ton of time. Do more.
  10. Always be high integrity, even when it costs you.
  11. Figure out what your primary focus is and make progress on that every day, first thing in the morning, no exceptions. Days with 0 output are the killers. (Tyler Cowen)
  12. Pay attention to your production/consumption balance. If you’re only consuming and not producing, fix that.
  13. You don’t do anyone any favors by lurking, put yourself out there!
  14. If you don’t “get” a classic book or movie, 90% of the time it’s your fault. Read/watch the classics deeply. 
  15. If you find yourself dreading Mondays, quit.
  16. Lean into the good kind of fear.
  17. Pick some kind of fitness/athletic activity to get addicted to, and get addicted to it for its own sake. (For me, this is running.)
  18. Learn how to meditate, even if you don’t do it regularly. The techniques are useful. 
  19. No matter how bad things seem, everything passes.
  20. You are probably too risk-averse. Define the worst thing that can happen, realize it’s not that bad, then take the leap.
  21. Do a review of your year, every year, write it out, figure out what was good at what was bad, use this to make your goals for the next year.
  22. Doing things is energizing, wasting time is depressing. You don’t need that much ‘rest’.
  23. Being able to travel is one of the key ways the modern world is better than the old world. Learn to travel well. 
  24. Form opinions on things and then find the strongest critique of those opinions. Repeat. 
  25. If you really can’t disprove something, it has a chance of being right. (Fallibilism.)
  26. Memorize a few old poems, or texts that mean a lot to you. 
  27. At some point in your life, work on a startup, or at least a thing driven by a small group. Small group energy is amazing.
  28. Be careful about rationalizing something that does not feel right. (Utilitarians, this means you!) 
  29. Know your ‘triggers’ / what makes you the worst version of yourself.
  30. Figure out what creates enduring value. (A non exclusive list: great cultural artifacts such as books; great companies/institutions).  
  31. To compensate for the bias everyone has to minimize themselves, be a little arrogant.  
  32. Don’t let anyone make you feel small.
  33. Working with people you really respect, and are secretly worried are much better than you and will figure out how dumb you are, is the best.
  34. Aim for Chartres” (Christopher Alexander) — when doing something, aim to be the best there ever was at it. This compensates for your natural bias, which is to do something mediocre. You have to really aim to be as good as the greats.
  35. Send more cold emails. People respond!
  36. Have a lot of crazy experiences in your 20s. 
  37. There are some people who, after you talk to them, you feel more energized and you want to conquer the world or climb a mountain or something. They’re rare but they exist. Go find them and make friends with them.
  38. Move to where the action is. Agglomeration effects are powerful. 
  39. Status is fake and transient. Just focus on substance and doing valuable work. Talk about it in public. 
  40. Ask dumb questions. The people who matter won’t judge you for it, and you’ll learn things as a result.
  41. Don’t over-index on trends. Just figure out your first-principles view of what’s actually important for the world, and go from there.
  42. There is some wisdom in “fake it till you make it”. 
  43. Don’t “slow down” as you get older, speed up. Lean into changes, be curious about new things. Most people seem to go the other way. 
  44. Be specific
  45. Understand power laws. Outlier math rules all.
  46. Stop asking for approval and permission from others. School and work trains people to have this mindset. Figure out what you want to do, and make it happen with the means you have; people will jump on board when there’s momentum. (Werner Herzog to Errol Morris: “when it comes to filmmaking, money isn’t important, the intensity of your wishes and faith alone are the deciding factors.”)
  47. Don’t network, make friends. Writing online is great for bringing interesting people your way. Having a wide network of friends really makes a difference to the opportunities you get and how easy it is to launch your projects.
  48. When writing, separate the “creator” and the “editor”. The “creator” just writes, and doesn’t worry about quality; the goal is words on the page. Later, you can be the “editor” and shape it into something good.