How To Win At Life: My Principles

What do you believe you are capable of achieving?

It's not something most people think about, so take a moment.

If you had to bet on your future, would you bet on yourself? Would you bet that you can achieve a goal you set for yourself, no matter how big?

Don't rush or force an answer. This is no small question. And don't let your Ego answer it for you out of haste.

Maybe you naturally think big. Maybe you already believe you can achieve anything you set your mind too. If you do, congrats, you're one of the lucky ones that this stuff comes easy for.

For the rest of us, we have to build our vision over time as we develop more confidence and move up the ladder of awareness.

Most of us grew up in a world defined by limitations. We are used to ration, to watch what we spend, what we eat, and the need to save up, plan, reduce and eliminate, and so on.

Don't get me wrong, I think this is necessary for achieve something meaningful in life; you can't be bore into comfort and expect to achieve great things.

We all need hardship. We all need obstacles to overcome.

The issue then becomes our inability to think bigger than what is around us. If you grow up in the middle class, you aim for your life to become upper middle class. If you grow up poor, you would love to end up middle class. If you grow up rich—and have ambitions—you might aim for billions. And so on.

This is just a byproduct of our environment... it's unavoidable. What we can do is focus on aiming way higher.

We have to get in the mindset of thinking bigger, like way bigger.

A few million in the bank would be a dream come true for 99.9999% of the world. But what about a billion? If no one aimed to make billions, we would't have the world-changing technology and innovation we have today. Make no mistake about it, we need billionaires, we need people to think BIG.

Maybe your BIG isn't Steve Jobs BIG or Bill Gates BIG, and that's totally ok. The point is, the world is better the more BIG you can achieve.

Remember the saying:"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among stars!"

This guide is about living the best life you can so you can achieve as much BIG as possible.

Before you have a shot as your biggest BIG, you have to understand, and truly accept, the reality of your situtation:

You can have the life you want if you're willing to work for it... but you must truly believe you can.

These are the questions you must answer before you have any real shot of reaching any kind of BIG in your life.

Sure, you can most definitely build a good life, a comfortable life, but you won't be able to build an extraordinary life, a BIG life, if you don't have a plan and a solid set of beliefs around that plan.

Here's the thing not everyone will tell you: the Universe doesn't give a damn about you, and it doesn't owe you a thing.

To help put your existence in its proper context, here's you: You're an animal, an evolved ape to be more specific, which is a conglomeration of atoms that nature has managed to coalescence together into a thinking and feeling life form that is the result of a few billion years of testing and tweaking called evolution. As much as this is a miracle, it is extremely fragile: your atoms can fall apart instantly if one of a billion things goes wrong on any given Sunday.

You are a human. You are flesh and bone. You are often petty, jealous, close-minded. You are an animal, after all.

Humans have in their innate nature the ability to kill, rape and pillage. Like any other animal, we all have base instincts built into our species' DNA. As you can clearly see by watching any animal documentary, there is no sense of morality in the animal kingdom; there is only survival. The same is true for humans, so don't let all the fancy technology and cities we've built fool you. We are still animals.

Yet, as animals, we still have a nearly unlimited capacity for empathy and kindness and love. We have built technologies that are making the world a better and safer place. We've taken control over our environment and shaped it to our will. We will eventually colonize the solar system.

We are constantly evolving. We are evolving out of these primal instincts with each successive generation. But we still have a long way to go.

I digress.

Let's get back to you, a single human in a sea of humans. My advice if you have any ambitions at a successful life is to first get over yourself.

You must forget what's fair or unfair because there's no such thing. There is only cause and effect. You were born with advantages and disadvantages, like everyone else. And the more you focus on the latter while ignoring the former, the worse off you will be.

Doing this will save you from the trap of victim mentality. You know the type; complains about other people, the world, the weather, just about anything that is responsible for making their life not perfect. Victims will always be victims, and thus will never accomplish what they could have. They manifest obstacles, making it harder on themselves, and will never raise up to a higher level than whatever their current average is.

This is not how you have a great life. This mindset is similar to a scarcity mindset and the fixed mindset, both of which are a ball and chain holding individuals back.

The best antidote to these mind traps is a full acceptance of personal responsibility... in everything. No matter how unlucky you get, and no matter how culpable someone else may be, your only focus is on yourself and what you can do. Everything else is a waste of time.

When you accept the reality of life, that there's no moral police walking around making sure everyone has the same opportunity and that everyone plays by the rules, you are set free to manifest your life the way you want it.

Ultimately, all you can do is be grateful that you are alive and thinking, feeling, and experiencing the human experience in the now, and then getting to work at making your life the best life you can based on where you are at right now.

When you operate from a place of gratitude and acceptance of the now, you have your platform for building an amazing life.

You have already won the ultimate lottery of the Universe: you get to exist in this form, right now, here today.
So our choice is become showing your appreciation by getting to work and making yourself, and the world, better.

This guide will help you do just that: get over yourself and get to work. But you can't do any of this until you believe you can.

Remember your fragility, focus on your strengths, then use focused and directed action to accomplish whatever you put your mind to.

Most people don't believe they can have any life they want, so they spend their leisure time watching the unbelievable lives of other people on social media. They stay in the same place, falling into a form of learned helplessness regarding their existence.

Most people rise to the average level their subconscious has set for them, which is usually not far off from the average they've experienced their entire life.

But that's a waste... a waste of potential.

As Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

I agree.

Most people don't spend time understanding their why, when, what and how of their existence? If you don't take the time to find your purpose, you can't figure how to do your BIG, and as a result you become a strain on everyone else that is putting in the work to make our world better.

Our government is already strained from the mass of unexamined lives living on government and medical assistance—something completely contrary to Mother Nature. Maybe that's not PC to say, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be said. We must first observe reality as it is, like scientists, so we can avoid deluding ourselves.

Simply put: there are millions of humans alive today that would not have survived were they born into a pre-technology world. That's not to say we shouldn't help these humans if we can—we should. But we should understand the costs and reality of the unfairness of life so we can get to work instead of wasting time wishing things were different.

Personally, I can't stand sloth. It sickens me. People that are born into a world that provides them with every possible opportunity to become a productive member of the human species has a duty to not squander that opportunity.

Yet many do... many, many do.

I'm an optimist, so I believe things are getting better everyday as we share ideas that can empower individuals to take charge of their life and contribute.

And yes, I'm very aware of my own fortunate station in life. I write this as a white male that was raised in middle class American suburbia with above average intelligence (although I did poorly in school).

I know I have advantages, many more than others on many, many levels. But I don't squander them. In fact, I do everything I can to make sure I use these advantages to make a positive difference in the world.

That said, just because I—and many others—have certain advantages in life does not mean those that have it more difficult get a pass.

That is utter BS. And it's this toxic, blame-the-world mindset that prevents individuals from taking responsibility for their life... and it's the worst kind of sloth.

It's also disturbingly more common than it should be.

Sloth is sickening, but so is greed and the many injustices and inequalities we have in our world. To have people in parts of the world go without clean drinking water while we live in a society where we install fountains of water for decoration in front of our big, absurdly overdone high rises is absurd on so many levels.  

But alas, I may have digressed. So let's get back to the point of being good at life. Before we do, let's summarize what we've covered thus far:

  1. Take responsibility for your life and then take action.
  2. Remember rule #1 because everything else follows.
  3. After you have these down, help others do the same.

This living document will be updated regularly as I learn from experience. So read slowly and refer back regularly.

All of the recommendations to follow are my own advice and is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have any suggestions for topics to include or other relevant links, articles, videos, books, podcasts, etc., please let me know and I'll consider them for inclusion.

The first on the Being Good At Life List is the most important thing. It is universal and infallible. It has no exception. With it, you can accomplish anything. Here we go.

Life Principle #1: Maintain an open, skeptical, abundant mindset.

The way you view the world is the most important thing.

You see the glass half-empty, half-full, or even better: as a glass of water that requires no opinion unless you need to know exactly how much water is in the glass, at which point you would measure exactly whether the glass is half empty or half full.

When you view the world as a black and white, zero-sum game in which your winning means someone else is losing, you are doomed for never-ending misery and failure.

On the flip side, when you view the world as full of limitless abundance and opportunity, you will manufacture wins as a byproduct of this view. It will still require work, it always requires work, so don't let The Secret fool you into thinking that all you have to do is think.

You have to think and then act. Then think and act again. Then keep doing that forever and ever.

Now for a somewhat contradictory statement: You can view every situtation in one of two ways: useful or not useful.

This is the only thing that is black and white, but that's good because it makes life so much easier.

Viewing your situations as useful or not useful makes life simple and easy because it leaves you with only one choice: the choice to use what's useful while discarding the rest.

When you make this choice for your life, every situtation, even your worst, are useful because they make you more resilient, more careful, more wise. They make you better off for your next trial.

This is exactly what is meant when people speak the famous Nietzsche quote about being stronger from things that don't kill you.

It's true, but it requires a mega disclaimer...

What does not kill you makes you stronger... if you learn, adapt and keep going.

If you complain and wallow in your misfortune or otherwise succumb to helplessness over what has happened to you, the things that do not kill you today will certainly kill you eventually.

Death by a thousand cuts.

Yet, if you rise up and take responsibility (more on that later), you can manufacture a win no matter what trial you face. Furthermore, you will draw strength from your pain.

As one of my favorite baller Stoics, Epictetus, said, "It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters."

This is exactly how you takes responsibility for your life. There is no other choice but to own your shit. Period. Full stop.

Own it.

After all, who is responsible for you waking up in the morning? Who is responsible for paying your bills, for going to your job, for taking care of your family? Who's going to rise you up to a better life?

You.

No one else, definitely not the government and definitely not your parents, friends or partner.

You may feel angry, bitter and resentful towards the Universe that has wronged you, but does that mean you get a pass? Does that mean you get to lie in bed all day while neglecting your commitments?

No. Duh.

Thus the answer is still, and always will be, you.

So stop wasting your precious time and energy on anything other than getting to work on you.

You is why the abundant mindset is the winning mindset, and why anything else is wasted energy; previous energy that should be put to productive use elsewhere—on you.

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

―Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Life Principle #2: Ask more (and better) questions

Socrates famous quote goes like this: "I know that I know nothing."

While it appears Socrates never said that, it is widely accepted that Socrates is one of the wisest humans to ever have lived because of his ever vigilant questioning of his own knowledge.

Think about that for a second.

The wisest human is a man that specifically claimed no knowledge.

Interesting...

Today we think of intelligent people as the great entrepreneurs, writers, scientists or wordsmiths of our day. But are these individuals wise or are they just world class in their respective area of expertise? Does that make them wise? Or happy?

Interesting questions to consider.

Remember: Questions are powerful. Statements are weak.

Knowledge and skills are useful for everyday life, but what about wisdom? What utility does wisdom have if it doesn't allow you to solve problems or answer questions?

Wisdom is most useful for your most difficult trials in life; it's not really something you need to muster when deciding which tacos to buy.

Wisdom is the skill you want when thinking longterm or when working through big life decisions. Wisdom is more a process than a skill you posses.

The process of being wise involves forgetting your preconceived knowledge so you can start fresh, which allows you to solve problems and answer questions more effectively. The wise frame keeps you open to new data as it comes in so you can best synthesize that data to make better decisions.

When you remove your human bias so you can revert to as much ignorance as possible, you have the best template for solving problems because you can look at your situation with the beginner's mind. This is especially useful for working through extremely difficult and esoteric ideas, like visualizing your future or when dealing with messy social situations.

We humans are far too egotistical. We think we know many things, especially those we perceive as falling into our area of expertise. Yet every X number of years, things that were once accepted as truth are overridden and replaced by newer truths. The scientists of the early 1900s cannot hold a candle to the scientists today. The same will be said of the scientists in 2100. And so on it will go. (We are all standing on the shoulders of giants, btw.)

So really, what is the truth if the truth is ever evolving?

The reality is, everything you and I know is an illusion. Our knowledge is a mere blip on the ever evolving time scale, which is why our best defense against the perils of self-deceit—dogma, fragility, closed-mindedness—is to forever stay open-minded.

To keep your mind open, focus on questions. Be willing to change your mind often and easily. Remove the attachment your Ego has to your thoughts and beliefs.

The more open your mind, and the more skeptical you are of yourself and the world around you, the better chance you have at absorbing the best and most updated information available. The closer you get to an objective, useful-for-today truth.

If collective knowledge of the world progresses on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, what value is there in dogmatically holding on to things you learned in the past? How do you know the truth you hold so dearly hasn't just been updated out of existence by some kid genius halfway around the world?

You never know, which is why knowing too much is dangerous and why questions are powerful and necessary.

(Knowledge can be very dangerous; byproducts of strongly held knowledge and beliefs include the holocaust, war, slavery, the atomic bomb, to name but a few.)

Now, that's not to say you should forget the lessons of the past. Of course not.

Your aim should be to constantly evolve by building upon the lessons you've learned thus far while keeping as open a mind as possible to iterate on those lessons as you gather more data, e.g. focus on first principles that are unlikely to change like certain laws of physics, mathematics, human behavior, etc. Then keep your mind as open as possible to add to these as more and more information becomes available.

Get in the habit of asking more questions. Then use those questions to lead the witness that is your mind as close as possible to the most plausible, and most useful, truth.

Life Principle #3: Create your reality... Don't let others create it for you

As I write this, I have an unborn child coming into this world in a few months. My hope is that he (it's a boy!) will learn as many of the principles here as early as possible in his life.

The next principle is closely intertwined with principles #1 and #2. In fact, most of the concepts here work together and overlap, so remind yourself that these aren't listed in order of importance. I'm just trying to tweeze out these ideas in an easy-to-read format so you can remember them, and put them to use, in your daily life. You will learn these concepts in different ways and at different times in your own life based on your experiences.

I want my child to, as early as possible, fully accept responsibility for everything in his or her life.

What I want my unborn child to learn about life is this: regardless of luck or outcome, life is exactly what you make it.

There is no more empowering—and scary—concept for the human organism to grasp. Yet many people never grasp this truism and so they float through life responding to the world, like a metal ball stuck in a pinball game called "Life."

This is unfortunate, to say the least.

But when you accept your life for how it is, you are left with only one choice—what are you going to do about it?

You take responsibility and build the life you want or you don't and you don't.

What you do is all that matters, and that's a big responsibility.

After all, life is hard, sometimes really hard. Which is exactly why you must take responsibility for your life and worldview. If you don't take accept full responsibility, the world will bounce you around like a rag doll, and when that happens, even if you happy to get lucky along the way, you'll be back at square one the second your luck runs out. And it always runs out.

When you accept responsibility you have the framework for creating any life you want. You can see, think and do what you want. You gain full control and responsibility. You can manufacture your luck. You gain autonomy of mind, and eventually, autonomy of your time. (You have to be able to think for yourself before you can build a time and location independent life.)

This isn't going to be easy.

In fact, it's a lifelong process, and one you're never going to perfect. You will be tested often and in ways you are not prepared for, and you most definitely are going to fail along the way. But when you take ownership, you start welcoming these failures because you embrace anything that allows you to learn, grow and thrive.

Trials force you to adapt, to evolve, to become stronger. You will become as Nassim Taleb says, antifragile—you get stronger the more you are tested.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” -Proverbs 27:17

Accepting responsibility puts you on the path to autonomy; autonomy of mind, of being, of living, of seeing, of thinking, of saying. There is no more liberating feeling for the human being... and no more greater responsibility.

- -

As with everything, there are some negatives to what can be an isolated path—the path of being a free thinker and doer. Your peers will get jobs, get married, pay their taxes, have jobs, and do many of the things people do. Your path may include some of these same things or you you may eschew them all and go live on a beach in Thailand. You can't know yet where your paths will diverge because you don't know your future.

The path of the autonomous, unique, open, non-dogmatic individual can be a lonely one. The more unique, contrary, and open-minded you are, the harder time you may have empathizing with the fear-based perspectives of the people around you. This may make you less empathic with your fellow humans because you won't have patience for the excuses that people are so adept at manifesting for themselves.

My personal defense against becoming rigid and cold towards my fellow humans is to help freely but to then detach myself from the outcome of that help. If I pay too much attention to whether my help is used, I'll get disenchanted. The sad reality is, many of the people you help will squander that help.

On the other hand, some people will take your help and raise themselves up. This small percentage does so because they have taking responsibility for their life, and when it happens, it's a magical thing. So I help freely knowing that some will do the work, and this lets me remain optimistic.

- -

Another pitfall that may befall you when you break free is the divide that will emerge between you and your friends and family.

The most obvious way this conflict emerges comes when your income, health or social status rise to a perceived "higher" level than those around you. Your friends and family are likely to see your raise in status as an affront to their identity. Humans are built to keep the other humans around them on the same level. (I will be discussing why this is in my book, The Wild Philosophy, whenever I can get it done.)

When you do anything that is above those around you, whether it's your job, your friends, your family, your significant other or your classmates, you create a void. This can be true for everyone in your life, even lovers or best friends—those you expect to be happy for you.

You can try to mitigate this effect by keeping your wins to yourself as best as possible, but that's never a permanent solution. It always comes out. The fact is, if you have the desire to raise yourself up in life, you are are going to get resistance from many around you. So you'll have to be the snake that sheds its skin when it outgrows it—the metaphor being you may have to outgrow some people in life. It's just one of those things, and it's not easily reconcilable, and it usually sucks.

Your old friend group is not likely to stick around. Either they will leave you or you'll have to leave them. Hopefully you can reconcile this with some of your best friends, but there are no guarantees. We tend to go different ways in our lives as we get older. This can be true even if success isn't part of the equation. Be ready for it.

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As I've harped on already, taking responsibility for your life is the First Principle of becoming a self-actualized human being.

In a way, it is your first, final and forever quest because everything else follows.

Breaking the social bonds that have weighed you down your entire life requires a tremendous amount of pain, struggle, turmoil and life experience. You will evolve a bit at a time, which makes day one just as necessary as day 650 of your journey.

To this day, your teachers, friends, government, pop culture, social media, parents, neighbors, coworkers and bosses, have been conditioning you your entire life, sometimes subtle, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not on purpose.

This conditioning has shaped your views of yourself and of how you think you should look, think and behave in this life. These beliefs set you on a path based on the job you think you should get, the person you think you should date, and the things you think you should do.

The reality is this: you need to unlearn most of this.

Only when you unlearn the expectations placed on your shoulders by external forces can you build, from the ground up, a life based on the things you value and believe. I call this your final quest because I have found it takes many years to achieve at any meaningful level.

It takes a long time, and even then, it's unlikely you will ever fully shed the conditioning of your youth. So your only choice is to keep on keeping on. (Notice a theme yet?)

Personal responsibility is the gift I hope to bestow upon my children. I hope to do everything I can to prepare them with a strong defense so they can be independent thinkers and leaders among their peers as a means to best prepare them against the shame, envy, jealousy, hatred, and other pitfalls of the human psyche that is the result of social conditioning.

I hope to teach them the necessity of solving their own problems and of never complaining or blaming or running to daddy to solve their problems.

I suspect that will be the greatest gift I can ever give them.

Life Principle #4 Maintain Your Body and Mind

When asked what surprised him the most about man, the Dalai Lama said this:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Most of us are stuck in some kind of Rat Race.

Maybe you are in the average rat race which involves living paycheck to paycheck while consuming more and more and going into debt on the regular so we can keep up with the Joneses.

Or maybe you are in the affluent rat race which goes like this: make more and more while consuming more as a means to feel fulfilled—trying to buy your happiness through exotic locales, expensive toys and experiences.

While the former has stress about bills, the latter has stress about meaning and purpose.

Both are stuck in a vicious cycle. Both need a mental reset.

Let's look at how we can start with physical health as the core to building a better life overall.

Your physical health is the foundation from which mental health follows, and thus everything follows.

As the Dalai Lama comments on above, it's hard to understand how so many can spend health in an effort to get ahead in whatever rat race they are in. This is partly because humans are not good at thinking long term, so we look for short term altered states.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are many externally successful humans that are are sick, depressed or otherwise not living well. From a young age, I never understood that.

After all, if you have the means, you can hire the best trainers, doctors and a personal chef to prepare you delicious and healthy meals. With these resources, being physically healthy should not be difficult at all. (Truly mind boggling.)

I suspect this due to the bad habits that have compounded for years chasing riches. Habits are tough to break.

My advice for you is to do it differently.

Seek balance in your life, and be ok with getting less, attaining less if it means you are healthy and well adjusted along the away.

Constantly remind yourself that your external wins will not bring internal wins. Try to appreciate and be grateful as much as you can. Be in the moment. And damn it, be healthy first because that not only makes your work better but it also lets you enjoy the results better.

If you want riches, you can have them if you work smarter instead of only working harder.

You can get 8 hours of sleep a night and make clean food decisions while going to the gym at least twice a week, which will let you reach any goal you set for yourself. You'll actually get more done if you put your health first.

That is what's strange about the way many go about it. It still perplexes me to this day.

Finally, the more you rise yourself up in life, the more freedom of time you gain... if you do it right. Instead of piling on more so you can get more, make it your goal to get back as much of your time as possible.

When you get to a point where you can pay others to save time—or you have employees do much of the work you used to do—use that time to work on your health, to spend time doing the things you want to do, like spending time with your family.

If you make health your always #1 priority, you can then give the world your best work. You are the best boss you can be, the best father, the best lover, the best friend.

To sacrifice your health is counterintuitive on every level.

Maybe you think you'll take get it back later when you reach your goals, but the thing is, you are less likely to make it a priority with each passing day you fail to do so now. It has a reverse compounding effect, which is probably the best way to explain why there are so many successful, yet sick, people.

It's very hard to change habits as you move into middle age. So if you are still young, please heed this advice with great care because the habits you create now are going to stay with you for a long, long time.

Life Principle #5: Find work you love

Over a 50 year working-life, you will spend 35% of your total waking hours working.

According to various studies, a startling 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs.

That means that 8 out of every 10 working humans will spend more than a third of their prime years doing things every they don't want to do.

That is a disaster.

The question then becomes: what is the point of having money if you give up so much of life in exchange?

Furthermore, why do that when there are so many other alternatives out there?

The stories people tell themselves that allow them to fall into this job trap are delusions.

You can't buy back the years you gave up in exchange. You can't buy back your health. You can't buy your happiness. You can't buy purpose.

There is no answer here than the one answer: find work you enjoy.

Or find work you don't enjoy but use that as a means to get to the work you do enjoy. If you have to work a few years to build up some money so you can start a business or make an investment or whatever, that's great. That's as good a plan as any.

What's not good is doing work you don't enjoy so you can be stuck in the rat race.

Most people convince themselves that money will make up for it. It never does and never will, which is why there are so many overweight, unhappy, stressed and otherwise miserable people that are externally successful.

Luckily, there is a way out. The ways out are myriad, whether that means you work for a company with a purpose you value or if you decide to freelance while you travel the world.

Then there's the million plus ways you can generate income using the Internet. Or owning a business. Or coaching clients. And so on.

If you aren't happy, try something else. If you need the money, build something on the side.

You will never get back lost time. So be very, very, very careful about how you are spending that time, at work or otherwise.

Finally, do everything you can to avoid becoming a debt salve. Get out of the rat race. Get rid of your credit cards, or stop paying them. You don't need a big house, heck, you don't even need to buy a house. Houses are the single greatest liability for the average American, yet most people think it is their greatest asset. It's not.

I'll refer to Rich Dad's definition on the matter: liabilities take money out of your picket, assets put money into your pocket.

If you want to buy real estate, buy investment properties that generate positive cash flow. Buy dividend paying stocks. Invest in cash flow businesses. Then, when your assets are making you enough money, use that money to buy your toys, or to travel, or whatever.

Life Principle #6: Invest in your relationships... without expectation

I'd venture to say that your relationships are the number one thing in your life that simultaneously bring you joy and misery.

This is one of those parts of human life in which we are all left to our own devices to figure out.

Sure, there's help, but imagine what it was like before the Internet. Today there are countless articles, books and videos on the topic of relationships, friendships, sex, dating, etc.

But that only goes so far. You still have to get out there and practice, a byproduct of which is many awkward situations.

Trial by fire, as they say.

I'm by no means an expert, but I've figured some things out over the years (it was definitely trial by fire).

The primary advice I can give, and the hardest thing to do, is to remove your expectations of your relationships.

Expectations combined with lack of communication is why most relationships fail.

Think about it logically for a moment.

You're probably not that great at communicating what you truly feel, need and want. No one is. We all suck at this.

We expect our friends, family or partners to know what we want, or to sense our unease and to beg us to tell them. Then when they don't, we are more upset with them.

If you're anything like other humans, you also have passive aggressive tendencies and you probably keep things to yourself when you should be doing just the opposite—saying what you need, want and feel.

These are all typical aspects of human behavior living in a modern world.

So if we are all mostly communicators and if we all have expectations of our relationships, what do you think is going to happen if we find another human that has the same qualities?

It's no wonder the divorce rate is what it is. In fact, I'm kinda surprised it's not higher.

When you view your relationships with pure gratitude, everything you get is a bonus.

I should say that you should not take abuse or let people take advantage of you. No way. You should give every room to make mistakes, but you should not continue relationships that consistently pull you down in anyway.

Instead, focus on the value there is in your relationships and drop all the expectations you have. People do not fit into your neat little box, especially people, so stop trying to make them do just that.

Your life is going to be so much easier when you let people be people and let your expectations die.

Life Principle #7: Say No

Why is it that most people get better at saying no the older they get?

Because they care less about offending other people and more about respecting their own wishes. Or some combination of the two.

So why not start now?

After all, time is still the most valuable thing in the universe for a human being.

You may think you have all the time in the world, but you don't.

Everything thinks they are going to live into old age, but plenty never do. Everything thinks they are going to have time to have kids, get married, travel the world, but many miss some or all of these.

Don't presume that the Universe is going to reward you with a long life full of opportunity.

Instead, be aggressive with guarding your time and the things you commit to.

It's either a "hell yes" or a no. (I think Derek Sivers said that.)

There should be nothing in between.

Not only will you save yourself time by saying No to the things you don't want to do, but you'll have more mental space and energy to better do the things you want to do.

If you say yes too often, you'll be pulled physically, mentally and sometimes, financially, in various directions.

That's not good for obvious reasons. GET NEW ARTICLES TO YOUR INBOX

life principle #8: Be a Sponge: Absorb Information

Did you know there is more student debt than consumer debt in our country? And it's growing.

College has become this thing that you're supposed to do because everyone does it, but the irony here is lost on many: the fact that everyone is doing it makes it that much less valuable.

Here's the thing about college: You don't need college if you can absorb information and use it in your life.

In our information economy, individuals that can self-educate are those that win in life, college degree or not.

What actually prepares you for success in a career or business is your ability to pull in data, synthesize it, then take directed actions based on that synthesis to get shit done.

Period. Full stop.

No exceptions.

If you have an internet connection, you have the opportunity to learn anything you want in a few clicks and on your own schedule and via your preferred learning method.

This is undisputedly powerful and incredible in so many ways.

The younger generation has no idea how lucky they are.

I remember a time when I had to hope the phone line wasn't busy in our house so I could dial into America Online and surf the limited net at mind-numbingly slow speeds.

Nowadays a toddler can access humanity's collective knowledge on her mom's outdated—yet still totally useable—iPhone 5.

Literally incredible. We are so friggin spoiled, it's absurd.

But access to this information is not the end all. After all, how many people have access to limitless information—and thus opportunity—yet still find themselves in the same place in life?

I have a theory that the 1% will always be the 1% because they are the ones who do the work to be the 1% whether it's the 1900s or 2100s.

Then there's another issue with our unfettered access to on-demand information.

As it goes with anything in life, there are pros and cons to this access.

Here's the gist that matters for our point here: Some people will take take advantage, most won't.

Unlimited and undirected access to information is a double edged sword—on one side you have access to unlimited entertainment and distraction; you can literally watch funny cat videos videos all day, every day, if you are so inclined. Or you can spend your time twittering, texting, snapchatting, commenting on Instagram or YouTube, or otherwise engaging in gossip and other not-productive behaviors.

On the flip side, you can do what I'm doing right now as I write this: you can put hours in to work towards a goal.

The latter option is plenty difficult in its own right. Then couple this with the fact that there are countless other, and no doubt more entertaining, options a click away and you can clearly see how my 1% theory is probably more correct than not. (Maybe it's 2%, who knows, but I  know for sure it's still a minority number.)

Then there's a third caveat, one that's dangerous and insidious. The Internet can be the world's biggest echo chamber if you aren't careful. If you seek out information that only affirms your beliefs, you will find the internet to be a giant hall of mirrors that constantly reflects—and strengthens—back to you the things you want to believe.

This is be extremely dangerous as it can contribute to tragic outcomes like school shootings and radical terrorism.

So here's what you must do:

Life Principle #9: Define Your Ethics

Part of developing a unique identity for yourself is defining your standards.

This applies to everything in life, from how fast you pay your friends back, to whether or not—or to what extent—you cheat on your taxes.

There are countless scenarios that will define your standards of morality. You aren't going to have perfect answers for them all, but you should have somewhat consistent answers for some.

It's tricky here because you should avoid dogma at all costs. You don't want to fall into rigidity of mind.

That doesn't mean you aren't OK saying something is or isn't for you in that moment.

The more life experience you have, the better you'll be able to clearly define your standards.

Your ethics will change in time. You might become more conservative or libertarian as you age... or less. That's to be expected.

Think of this as building the brand that is you. Businesses, when developing a brand strategy, must highlight the things they aren't equally as much as highlighting the things they are. In fact, what makes one company different from another are usually the ways they differentiate themselves from the competition.

In your quest to build your personal brand, be unique instead of taking the easy route and following the pack.

And if your ideals are average or typical, that's fine, just have good reasons for them.

The worst thing is to let someone else develop your values for you. It's one of those things that you must develop yourself.

Life Principle #10: Take Risks

You grow through trial.

Pain, stress, fatigue, angst are a breeding ground for greatness.

Noting that is easy is valuable for your future. Easy, in fact, can get you into trouble; it can make you lazy, weak, overconfident.

Thus, to grow, you must take risks and seek out what's hard.

If you don't take social risks, you won't be able to find a suitable mate. If you don't take career risks, you won't climb to where you want to be. If you don't take business risks, you won't grow your company.

And so on.

I'm not suggesting you be stupid and careless. You shouldn't take risks just because. Instead, you should do the things that are precarious that are needed to get the growth you are after.

So be smart and take calculated risks with high upside.

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The preceding principles for life is not an exhaustive list; I still have much more to add. So check back often.

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