A great way to learn is to learn from the greats.
People throughout history who have achieved big things - whether it be preventing wars, developing theories, saving lives, creating companies and more.
You can learn a lot from these people. And I think the best way to learn is at the real fundamental level, the level of principle.
It's hard to build on tips or tactics. Principles can be applied to everything that we do. Like Truth, for example, which is a fundamental principle for producing good outcomes. It sounds trivial, but how much better would the world be if we all operated from the principle of truth and honesty?
One such person we can learn from is Ray Dalio. He is an American investor, hedge fund manager, and philanthropist. Dalio is the founder of investment firm Bridgewater Associates, one of the world's largest hedge funds.
Running one of the world's largest hedge funds is hard, you need to develop some pretty solid personal and company operating principles to achieve consistent positive results.
Lucky for us, Dalio has published a 3-part guide detailing the importance of having principles, his life principles and his management principles. It's a 55 page read but well worth the effort.
Below are the bits from the book I found most valuable, which I think are immediately applicable.
All we have is the present moment.
Now. And now. And now.
Not the past.
We have memories of the past,
which are rooted in the present - we think of them in the present moment.
Not the future.
We have imaginings of the future,
which are rooted in the present - we imagine them in the present moment.
All we have is the present moment.
What are you doing with yours?
A lot of people harbour hopes of achieving financial independence in order to pursue more purposeful work. Some people are very lucky in that they are already doing what they love, which very often removes a lot of financial motivations; the work is so intrinsically soul quenching that the income earned is just a lovely side benefit.
For the majority that are currently doing things they secretly don’t want to do, check out how to improve your happiness in the meantime.
In today’s world, achieving a form of financial independence can be extremely difficult, particularly with rising house prices and wages decreasing over time adjusted for inflation. Caught on the hedonic treadmill, we work hard to buy things and then adapt to our new situation. So we work hard again to buy new things, we adapt, and so on. This hedonic sandstorm, coupled with rising costs, can make it seem impossible to achieve a form of financial independence.
Nassim Taleb calls it F*** You money. The ability to have freedom of your choices.
Interestingly, the hedonic treadmill works both ways, we adapt downwards. Think you can’t live without your beloved car? You’d be surprised how quickly you adapt.
After some googling, I found a couple of blogs (Early Retirement Extreme; Mr Money Mustache) that have taken this approach to its extreme, suggesting that you can achieve financial independence early through a systems approach to lifestyle design, by creating strategies to meet your needs whilst minimising costs and effort.
Or to simplify, ruthlessly cutting away that which you don’t need, investing your normal income in cash generating assets, and enjoying life through developing your independence and purposeful creation.
Below are the notes I’ve taken after reading both blogs. If you’re interested in saving a bit more money and cultivating purpose from everyday things, they are well worth a read.
Taking is pushing.
You are pushing against a force. Figuring out what you can get.
It's swimming upstream.
It's anxiety causing, worry inducing.
It's single serving.
It's relationship breaking, connection cutting.
Giving is pulling.
You are being pulled by a force. Figuring out how you can serve.
It's swimming downstream.
It's happiness creating, for multiple parties.
It's service to others.
It's relationship building, connection fusing.
Pushing is energy-sapping. It's depleting. It's the pit of your stomach aching.
Pulling is energy-inducing. It's invigorating. It's nourishment for the soul of everyone it touches.
Don't push, instead be pulled.
Don't take, don't be the single-serving person. Instead, give. Give of yourself. Give now. See how it lights up the room for everyone.
Check out this wonderful piece on differences in political opinion in America (image below). If the image is too small, here is the link to the article.
The princple behind the article - how incredibly different we are as a function of our upbringing, location, race, religion, eduction, income, circumstances, luck and romance; and how as a consequence we all have different opinions which we see as right and see as idiotic in others - is applicable far beyond the political spectrum.
In fact, it's applicable to:
Our relationships with our co-workers
Our relationships with our bosses
Negotiating a business deal
Conversations with our friends
Frustrations with our family
Different tactics we use in sports
....and just about anything that involves fuzzy human thinking and interactions.
Sorry to be a party pooper, but it's not true. The world is fanstastically more complex than one that succumbs to your desires just because you want it so. Instead, there are millions of variables at play. The only things you can control are your thoughts and your actions (this is wonderfully liberating). So thinking of strategies to take advantage of serendipity is a wonderfully sensible move to try and maximise your chances of "success" (what ever that is for you :-))
From my perspective, the strategies I've found most useful from How To Get Lucky, particulary when combined, are as follows:
FIND THE FAST FLOW (go where events flow fastest - high concentration of people) +
RISK SPOONING (considering risk/reward ratios - never play Russian Roulette no matter the reward) +
WORST CASE ANALYSIS (assess and ensure you can handle the worst case scenario before committing) +
RUN CUTTING / LUCK SELCTION (take the gains / cut your losses) +
JUGGLING ACT/ZIG-ZAG PATH (opportunites can come from any where / life is not a straight line)
Full Book Notes
1. Making The Luck/Planning Distinction
Recognise, acknowledge and make the luck/planning distinction when something happens.
Good and bad luck is prevalent in everyone’s life.
Recognise, acknowledge and make the distinction between luck and planning. (X% Planning, Y% Luck)
Ignoring the role of luck is a recipe for bad luck.
‘To live under constraint is a misfortune, but there is no constraint to live under constraint.’
Listen, bad stuff happens. All. The. Time.
It can really hit home when it happens to us, or our friends, or our family.
Losing your job
Finding out your partner has been cheating on you
Finding out your car has broken down
Losing money in an investment
Your start up failing
Your established business failing
Having an accident
Getting an illness
It can sting right?
Conventional wisdom might be to "think positive", or something of the sort. But I say that can hinder as much as help.
A lot of us get stuck in cycles of wondering if what we're doing with our lives is what we're "meant to be doing" with our lives. I know I do.
Lists upon lists upon lists of ideas. So many lists - maybe that's my purpose...chief list maker, guardian of the listiverse.
The truth is, you don't find purpose, you create purpose. By doing things. By being interested. By getting really good. Through practice.
Unfortunately, most of us get trapped on the income treadmill. Not in an empty corporate greed, making money with the aim to make more money, to then make more money kind of way. But instead in a costs are rising, wages are reducing, how am I going to survive kind of way.
That lingering, heart-raising, economic anxiety.
Some others are a little more fortunate, prospering in the workplace. Getting raises to get more raises to get more raises. Replacing Fords with Ferrari's and Jeeps with Jaguars and so on. Adjusting to their means and so still not escaping the income treadmill.
And all of that is great if you're doing what you love to do but if its not, when are you going to do what you love to do? As Alan Watts said, the upsetting thing is most of us do things we hate doing and raise a family and teach them to do the things they hate doing and so the cycle continues. When what you could do is practice the thing you love to do until you get so good at it that people will pay you for it (video here).
Of course, life is hard, and for most of us it's not so easy to just do the things we love to do. At the very least, we still have bills to pay and so jobs to maintain. In the meantime, however, there is nothing stopping us being interested in other things and to eventually get so good at them that we can make careers out of them.
Right now though, how do we increase our current situation happiness? There are two methods I know of, so read on.
Over the years, aside from business blogs and a couple of e-commerce sites, I've had two blogs that I've contributed to semi-consistently.
The first was a site called Personal Development Hacks. It was ugly as sin! I started it at a time when I began to read a lot more. Not reading to pass an exam, not reading to please a boss; but reading to pursue worldly wisdom. I didn't call it that then, and the subset of books read was narrow.
Through that blog, I wrote my first ever guide for sale - on goal setting - which a couple of people even paid real money for - boom! Ha!
One of the many gems of advice that famed investor Warren Buffet gives, is that to be successful you should operate within your 'circle of competence.'
That is to say, you have to figure out where your aptitudes are, where you have an edge, and play within it.
If you play where others have an edge, you're going to lose.
Over time, work to expand your circle, but never fool yourself about where it stands today. Don't be afraid to say "I don't know."
That which is small helps us (proximity to customer, dependence on commerce, no bureaucracy):
That which is large harms us (or at least does not help us):
Large processed food production
Profit driven pharmaceutical companies (leaving effective drugs on the shelf)
Bureaucratic healthcare systems
Chain restaurants (lower standard food, high prices)
Your colleague humiliated you in front of everyone and you're angry. You want to get even. You can't concentrate on anything else but retaliation.
It's justified right? But is it helping?
You're angry at your neighbors refusing your planning application for a new building. You no longer talk to them.
Is it helping?
You're pissed off with your daughter because she didn't call last weekend, so you're short with her when you next meet.
Is it helping?
You don't talk to your partner that evening because he's home from work 3 hours later than he said he would be and you slaved over a meal.
Is it helping?
You sink into yourself and feel angry at the world for not realizing the brilliance of your breakthrough idea after the investors rejected your start-up pitch.
Is it helping?
One of your customers leaves you after citing a poor customer experience and you withdraw into yourself in a world of self-pity and denial.
Is it helping?
It's easy to react based on the external world around us. How we were slighted, how the circumstances were unfair, how the other person got a better deal.
But with all things considered, is it helping? Better to focus on what you can do to make the best of now. Better to see what possibility you can create to improve the circumstances. Better to maintain your own scorecard and standards.
The customer left you, ask them why. Take the objective feedback, and double down on your existing and new customers.
Your partner was late home. Forget the meal. Be the possibility for them to step back from the tough day they had.
The investor rejected you? Get feedback, they've seen hundreds of pitches. Alter your pitch, find more investors, go again.
When you react, ask yourself, "is it helping?" "Am I being helpful?" Because an attitude of win-win is what helps to improve the world.
Forget the Facebook moments, the Instagram posts of perfect lives, the LinkedIn swagger about the aren't-we-awesome-at-business crowd.
Forget the cheap praise, the "you've done enough" attitudes, the "you're-so-great" compliments.
Forget the jealousy, the low-blow shots, the gossip spreading, the "why is he doing that" murmurs.
Instead, maintain your own scorecard.
The external chatter, the well-intentioned praise, and the soul-destroying harm can do two things:
1) Convince you that you're better than you are
2) Convince you that you're worse than you are.
Instead, maintain your own scorecard.
This is a characteristic of how great people think. They hold themselves to high standards when others already deem their efforts enough. They keep trying when others mock or judge or critique. They use real, measurable feedback and compare where they are to their own internal scorecard.
Let the others judge and compare and seek recognition. Instead, build your confidence on solid, unshakable achievement.
'But the best advantage is the fact that those who have acquired the habit to commend their enemies is that they do not have hostile feelings and do not feel envious because they are jealous of their relatives' or friends’ success, and are removed from envying their good fortune.' (Plutarch)
Fire burns you, but it can be a source of light and heat too.
When your enemies slander you, when they scream at you or are sly with you, when they gossip about you or wound you; you have two choices:
You can either hit back, clouded with rage. You can fuel the fire and struggle and toss mud and smear the both of you. You can have stress coarse through your veins, you can lose sleep, you can work yourself up, you can respond in a petty tit for tat exchange.
Or you can learn. You can practice grace and poise. You can display virtue and balance. You can be kind, calm, and generous, taking adversity in your stride.
Don't respond in anger, instead be a man of virtue.
Remember, when someone treats you poorly, it doesn't degrade you, it degrades them.
Learn from the exchange. Are there any truths in the accusations? Can you adapt in the future? Are you acting with courage? With patience? With clear thinking?
Imagine then, who you are, your character, when you respond to slander with grace, to anger with objectivity, to a loss of control with a steady nerve, to grandeur with humility, and to underhand tactics with courage.
Your responses forge, craft and refine your character, preparing you to overcome ever harder adversities. All the time whilst your enemies work themselves into a perpetual cauldron of entitlement and rage.
Grace and poise, always.
When you meet someone, they often make a judgement about you in seconds. They spend the rest of the conversation fooled by confirmation bias, finding bits here and there to reinforce their judgement.
You do it too. And so do I. It takes a really skilled human to understand they are judging you and then to remove the judgement.
With practice, you can do it. The first step is acknowledgement.
Of course, this has implications for when you meet someone. Like a job interview. Or a business pitch.
And you thought your skills mattered most!
People subconsciously care about 2 things when they meet you:
Translated: How warm are you? How competent are you?
Of these two, by far the most important factor is trust.
Why? Evolution. Thousands of years ago, only the paranoid survived. Figuring out if you might kill me is far more important than knowing if you’ve got shelter building skills.
So, when in a meeting, pitch or interview - trust trumps competence.
With trust, your skills are a strong suit, and you can put them on the table.
Without trust, your skills are threatening. Nobody likes to be threatened.
And how do we build trust?
By being present. By being passionate, enthusiastic, authentic, confident and captivating.
Remember, trust precedes competence when winning someone over in a meeting, pitch or interview.
Want to learn more? Check out the fantastic TED video by Amy Cuddy on Power Poses.
1. "The wine which is poured out first is the purest wine in the bottle, the heaviest particles and any cloudiness settling to the bottom. It is just the same with human life. The best comes first. Are we going to let others drain it so as to keep the dregs for ourselves?" (Seneca)
If you can, do the things that interest you early. Don't wear out your body and mind in the hope that someday you can do the things you want to do. Don't do 40 years of drudgery in exchange for a comfortable retirement and pseudo-safety. Not in today's age, not when opportunity is every where.
Instead, save the best years for yourself. Work on what interests you, get good at it. Have fun.
Over the last few years, I've made it a priority to read a lot of books. Not just any books, but those that teach you Worldly Wisdom.
What is elementary, worldly wisdom? Well, the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ‘em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form.
Books are the great leveller. They give you access to the musings of the most talented people of not just today, but throughout history.
Want to learn about investing? Legendary investors Ben Graham, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have penned their thoughts. Want to learn about dealing with uncertainty, read anything by Nassim Taleb. What to learn about Stoic Philosophy, read any of the classics by Seneca or Marcus Aurelius.
Yes, books are the great leveller and have become incredibly important to me over the last few years.
How to read a book is also important. That’s been covered in detail over at Farnam Street Blog and you can read about it here and here.
Learning From and Relating To What You Read
When I read a book, I'm always scribbling in the margins, always writing down my thoughts, thinking how it may relate to knowledge I already have or experiences that I'm going through. I'm not a special snowflake here, most curious people will be scribbling in the margins. In fact, it's termed "Marginalia" and has been done throughout the centuries by various historical figures including Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde.
You do not make observable progress in any activity – in a work project, in understanding a topic, in learning a new skill; in a linear, step-by-step fashion. But that doesn't mean stuff isn't happening that you can’t see, so don’t sweat and keep going.
It’s like a kettle boiling. Nothing, nothing, nothing and then bam! Excitement, bubbling, steam! You don’t see the progress for the first couple of minutes, but you do see the rapid progress when it all comes together at the end.
That doesn't mean stuff isn't happening though. All the time, molecules are heating up, they are getting more excited,