This topic doesn't get enough attention.
There are countless books on personal development and success, but how often do you see a book called "How To Build A Well-Rounded Life Based On Your Own Internal Values"?
You don't see it is the answer.
What about books on creating values for yourself in the first place rather than reading about someone else's values? Even that is hard to find.
Simply put, you aren't likely to find one place that will show you how to create a life for yourself and how to create your own definition of "success."
You'll do what most people do: copy others.
So you're destined to sifting through countless YouTube videos and podcasts and books and a whole lot of trial and error.
And that's fine, that's part of the process. After all, building a life on your terms takes figuring out what you want and what you don't want.
No book, article, or video can tell you this—though they can help you get ideas for testing.
And that's what I hope to do: give you ideas for testing and ideas for thinking about from my 13+ years as a self-made entrepreneur and iconoclastic thinker.
I'm not claiming this article is the end-all, be-all, but I think it is a great place to start.
I'll do my best to give you actionable ways to think about creating a unique and original life for yourself. To get the full treatment, hop on the Better Humans Newsletter and check out the guides section of this site here.
Some of the following recommendations will have a more significant impact on you, depending on your relative strengths and weaknesses and where you are at on your journey right now.
If you don't figure out how to think for yourself instead of being a carbon copy of the way people around you think, what chance in hell do you have of creating a life for yourself?
You will instead run into the same problems that everyone does.
Here's the thing about most people's problems: they are made up!
You can avoid 99% of the problems most people face by dropping the faulty mindset that causes them in the first place!
Like I said, humans follow a "monkey see, monkey do framework, which means they look at what other people are doing and try to do what they are doing and did. Of course, this comes without the whole picture, so it's no surprise when they run into the same problems other people make.
If you avoid the typical mindset traps that most people fall into, you've already moved far ahead of where you would have been had you done what most people do.
This might sound elitist, and to an extent it is, but if you want to live an extraordinary life, your measuring point has to be, unfortunately, the average person.
If "average" was healthy and robust and well-adjusted, we wouldn't use it for comparison. Average in modern society is sick, discontent, and dying a slow death.
So we have to pick on "average" a bit so we can avoid the same fate.
How to be an iconoclast, and why you should
You should already have a sense that I'm a proponent of thinking differently, of being an iconoclast.
If accepted early on, this is something that will pay you dividends in the future you can't fathom. Thinking differently from everyone else is a prerequisite for living an original life. Think about it: if you think like everyone else, you'll end up just like everyone else.
So Lesson #1 for creating a unique and original life for yourself is you must think differently.
I can only introduce you to the idea of thinking iconoclastically since it's a big topic that will take you years to internalize completely.
So get started today. The simplest way to start thinking differently is to start questioning everything and everyone. Make a list of every belief or idea you hold dear and kill it. Then rebuild from the ground up. Take nothing at face value. Believe nothing that someone tells you to believe until you have done your due diligence and vetted that information.
Then be able to change with time since the Universe is in flux. Nothing is permanent or fixed. So keep moving forward.
The more you can detach from your ideas, the cleaner your canvas for painting your future is.
Thinking for yourself is a skill that can take years to get good at. Most people just parrot what other people think.
What's especially insidious about this is how people are convinced of their ideas and beliefs and are unaware that they came from someone else.
This is dangerous because it blinds people to the work they need to do if they want to level up their thinking. Without awareness, you won't pay attention to your thoughts, and without attention, you can't replace unproductive thoughts with productive ones.
Furthermore, forming unique thoughts is a muscle that only grows if exercised.
Never believe your own bullshit.
Always seek to disconfirm what you believe. Seek counterpoints. This doesn't mean you constantly change your mind, though sometimes you will. It means you are forever stress-testing your ideas, so you know the ones you keep are the good ones. That's the key.
Thinking for yourself is an evolutionary process that happens when you aren't thinking about it. This is why building a concrete foundational mindset at the onset will save you a ton of time and energy.
The tips in this guide will help you get closer to thinking for yourself. The more you internalize their concepts and put these ideas into action, the sooner you'll start thinking for yourself.
The simplest way to explain first principles thinking is as a practice of reducing a problem or idea into its foundationally true principles.
Elon Musk wanted to start a rocket company with his PayPal funds. His goal was to build and launch a rocket into space for as little money as possible.
But all the "experts" told him it would take 50-100 million and not a penny less. He started looking for used Russian rockets, but they were expensive since that was "industry standard."
The innovation came when he thought about this problem from a first principles perspective. Instead of asking aerospace incumbents and getting the same rote advice, he stripped it all away.
He asked himself, "How much do the raw materials needed to get a rocket into space cost?
Musk then calculated how much silicone, steel, platinum, silver, and other materials needed to build a rocket from scratch and fill it with jet fuel. The cost was nowhere near the 100 million he kept hearing.
So he looked closer at the industry to find out where the added expenses were going, and he figured out that rocket companies outsourced most of their parts to other companies. A rocket has tens of thousands of parts, meaning buying from tens of thousands of companies. And what are you paying every time you buy from a different company? Profit.
If you buy 10,000 parts from 10,000 companies, you pay profit on every part.
This led to Musk's breakthrough: SpaceX would manufacture most or all of their parts in-house. That's what they did, and as a result, they got the launch down to a fraction of the industry standard. And that's how SpaceX revolutionized the rocket industry.
By rejecting the status quo and ignoring everyone who told him it couldn't be done, Musk could get to the core of the problem. That's the power of first principles thinking.
Another example of first principles thinking I think about often is found in an accident philosophy called Stoicism.
Stoicism's primary tenant is to focus on what you can control while accepting what you can't.
For example, if something that has come to pass is causing you pain, run yourself through this logic pattern:
Question: Can I change the past?
Question: What can I control now?
Answer: My feelings toward the past AND what I'm going to do next based on this information.
You can run every problem you've ever encountered through this logical framework. In most cases, you probably spent too much time on things you couldn't control, at least at first.
Maybe eventually you figured it out: that you can't control the past so the only thing you can do is get to work now on what you want.
This is the most common mental trap people fall into today and one that is so easily avoided (like I mentioned at the beginning of this article).
Most people get hung up on ideas of fairness and morality, but guess what? There is no morality in nature. There is only survival or death.
Nature doesn't give a shit about your feelings or about what's fair or right. So don't waste an ounce of energy stressing about it. Instead, focus on what you can control, which are your thoughts and actions. Then accept your responsibility for each and get to work.
That's all you and I and anyone can ever do. Ever ever ever ever do.
Personal responsibility isn't the easiest path to take, but it is always the best path.
Most people choose to suffer and cause themselves pain and anguish. It becomes an addiction. Victim mindset is a dangerous and addictive frame of mind. It feels good to blame others for the unfairness of our lives. That removes our agency in the matter. It's not our fault; it's someone else's fault.
This is an illusion.
And it's why the race stuff is going to have a backward effect: it's going to make people more marginalized and more fragile and more unfair. It's going to infect people's minds, and it leads them away from personal responsibility. When you live your life expecting others to take care of you, you suffer. No if, and, or buts about it.
Make no mistake about it: It is your choice whether you suffer or not.
We all do it to some extent; we are human, after all, but how long it lasts and how much of your life it consumes is entirely up to you.
When you accept the Stoic first principles, you have no other choice but to take responsibility for your life. It is empowering. It happens to be the most important distinction you will ever make for your life and future. Without empowerment to own your life, you will forever be an addict addicted to the drip of other people's bullshit.
Building a first principles framework in your mind will save you so much time and suffering.
Audiobooks on Audible, Scribd.com, and Kindle <- these are my tools for self-education. Then Podcasts and YouTube.
Developing a reading habit will change your life. Listen to audiobooks while you drive, workout, take walks, do the dishes, mow the lawn, etc.
Read biographies to see how other people dealt with adversity and created lives for themselves.
Reading books also helps you become better at thinking for yourself.
You want to question everything, especially yourself.
Anything you think you know, question it. Try to disprove it. Entertain the opposing viewpoint.
This will make you a better thinker and less prone to mental error. It will also help you build a life for yourself.
Each recommendation in this article will strengthen your self-awareness muscle. Implement these principles consistently, and you'll continually upgrade your awareness of yourself.
Self-awareness is a prerequisite to building a life for yourself. Think about it: if you don't know who you are or what you want, and if you don't understand yourself, how are you going to build a life for yourself when you don't know what life to build!
Your Matrix is your perception, habits, thoughts, beliefs, and fears ingrained in you from childhood.
These have been passed down to you from family, friends, country, nation, and the social norms and mores of each.
You have been molded by your environment. The problem with this is, society does not have your best interests in mind. Society wants to stifle your creative energy and keep you thinking and acting like everyone else. Society wants you to be a tax-paying, law-abiding, like-minded robot that thinks, buys and acts the way it wants you to.
No society wants revolutionaries that think for themselves and challenge the status quo.
To break free from this trance is no small feat, and for some, it's the hardest thing they will ever have to do.
You must break free if you want your best life.
I'm lucky I had a small family because the pressures on me were small. It's not like I came from a big family with cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles.
Each extra person in your immediate family that shows up in your life regularly is a potential influencer (or stressor). Furthermore, the larger the family unit and thee more cohesive it is, the more likely you'll have a bucket of external pressures to live up to that are considered "acceptable" to your group.
A large family with a strong social identity will make it more difficult for you to do anything different.
A smaller family or one that is not cohesive, the more opportunity you have for creating a unique future.
I bet we could plot the famous independent thinkers in history and find correlations to less social influence and more independent thinking.
So keep this in mind for your situation. If you have more pressure, you will need more intervention and more time and struggle to break through to the other side.
So what is the other side?
Having complete control and autonomy of your life to make your decisions for yourself.
How this translates into day-to-day life is this: you pursue what represents your goals and values and nothing else.
You don't become a lawyer unless that's what you really want to do—the same for becoming a doctor, choosing a mate, speaking your mind, where you live, and so on.
If you want to live like a monk, do it.
If you want to pursue wealth, do it.
If you don't want to sit around and do drugs and watch TV all day because that's what your family does, then you must break free from that environment if you want something different.
Step one in breaking free from your Matrix is being aware of the Matrix.
How you break free is beyond the scope of this article. As it goes with every recommendation in this article, it will be a process.
It will include making changes in your life and the people you are around. It might mean removing specific individuals from your life.
This is life.
It's not always perfect and cozy, and it is ever-changing.
Tips for controlling our environment.
The modern media is an abomination of propaganda and agenda and manipulation.
For every popular narrative you consume through this toxic medium, the less likely you will be able to take agency and control fo your life and future.
The media turns you into a sheep. You then talk about the same stupid things to the rest of the sheep. You have to eliminate it completely.
If it's a big media company, ignore it completely. Don't watch it. Don't lie to yourself that you "need to know what's going on."
When you realize that the news has nothing to do with what's going on, you'll never desire it again.
Here's something you may or may not appreciate: the celebrities, athletes, and famous people you follow are ignorant puppets that know mostly nothing about anything.
Their job is to be famous via a skill: being an actor (playing make-believe), being an athlete (playing a physical sport), or playing a politician (being a two-faced sociopath).
Their job is not to know or seek the truth, and that's why they are all talking head, PR managed puppets.
You can follow these people for their skills if you appreciate their skills, but give no merit to anything they say. And I mean ANYTHING.
If you spend a lot of time with other people, you will adopt their behaviors and habits.
If your friends or family are lazy, you'll become lazy. If you don't want to be lazy, you have to get out of that environment. Now.
Not later, not when you have enough money or the right job, get out right now.
Otherwise, you'll stay stuck where you are at for as long as you stay where you are at. This is obvious when you spell it out, isn't it?
If you spend time with negative people, you'll become a negative person.
If you spend time with toxic people, you'll become toxic.
If the people around you are miserable, unhappy, unfulfilled, fat, sick, dying, you will become each.
Build a new tribe and put yourself in a new environment. You might have to start from scratch, but that's ok, beautiful, even.
Move to a new city or country. Find like minds and learn from them. Read lots of biographies and fiction and books in general.
This includes YouTube, podcasts, audiobooks, movies, newspapers, etc.
Based on the first three points, you'll already have taken a big step in the right direction. So, what do you replace the empty space with?
Quality information. Motivational content. Good books. Lectures. Speeches. TED Talks (though not all are good). Graphic novels. Podcasts.
When I'm writing self-help content, I often forget to throw this in there because it is so ingrained into my life that I assume it is for everyone.
If you lack in any of the main principles for health, you are hindering everything else in your life.
Make health a priority!
Here is a shortlist of what you need to build into your life NOW. Not tomorrow, not next year, not when X or Y happens, do it now.
1. Eat Real food at home
Learn how to cook, even if it's simple one-pot meals. Learn how to use salt—and use it liberally.
Spend $150-$200 on the following:
2. Move daily outside
Take a walk. Do some yoga. Play a sport. Hike. Anything that gets you moving and outside in the sunlight.
3. Sleep 8 hours a night
Don't lie to yourself: you need 8 hours.
You already know this. Do it.
5. Spend time with friends and family
You already know this matters. Prioritize it.
6. Meditate - mindfulness
7. Cultivate a positive, abundant, growth-based mindset
Have standards and stick to them.
To wrap, let's talk about principles—Your principles.
Do you have them?
Do you know who you are and what you want?
You want to answer these questions. You then want to keep answering these questions since your answers will evolve as you do.
The more you cultivate your own set of beliefs and standards based on who you want to be, the easier it is to control your environment and become a leader rather than a follower.
The first step in this journey involves accepting that you are a selfish creature.
Don't feel guilty about it; embrace it.
By being selfish, you give your best self to the world. You also respect your body and mind and won't abuse it the way so many do. It comes to you first always.
This is the flip side of the ownership coin: if you don't respect yourself enough to respect yourself and put yourself first, you'll never take responsibility for your life, and the cycle of victimhood will repeat.
Part of building the resilience to put yourself first starts with ignoring the guilt and shame that's going to come your way. If you try to do anything unique or original, your friends, family, and society will do everything they can to hold you back.
This is a tough pill to swallow. Most people hold you back without even thinking about it. They do it subconsciously as a byproduct of human evolutionary past that desired for all things to be as equal as possible.
Your parents might want what's best for you, but generally only if "what's best" is their version, not yours. Maybe you are lucky and have parents that unconditionally want what's best for you.
Either way, you must not let people project their bullshit on you. You need to become accustomed to ignoring everyone. This doesn't mean you never take advice, and you don't consider their point of view.
No, you should take in as much data as possible. Just make sure you don't become a walking talking parrot of other people's ideas. That's when you've lost control.
Instead, take in ideas and analyze them inside your own vacuum. Do they make sense? Are they good ideas? Can they be useful to you? Or are they toxic or based in fear? Are they based on imaginary ghosts and what-ifs?
Avoid the many mental traps people fall into when listening to other people that are further along the path than them. Famous, successful, and intelligent have blind spots. None of them have everything figured out. Hell, some of them barely have what they do have figured out, figured out. Many people have been stumbling around for years and were in the right place at the right time. So be wary of guru and hero-worshiping.
Have your own standards. Fuck people's opinions unless they are useful, then use them.
Don't hero worship.
Think for yourself.
Test ideas out in the real world rather than talking about them ad nauseam.
Take the status quo and try the exact opposite. Then see what happens
Read a lot.
Spend more time learning about other people's mistakes rather than their successes. Our culture wrongly hero-worships while ignoring most of the failings. The failings are where the valuable data is while the successes are usually obvious or just a byproduct of staying in the game.