The problem is, to win at a status game, you have to put somebody else down. That’s why you should avoid status games in your life—they make you into an angry, combative person. You’re always fighting to put other people down, to put yourself and the people you like up.
If you’re going to live in a city for ten years, if you’re going to be in a job for five years, if you’re in a relationship for a decade, you should be spending one to two years deciding these things. These are highly dominating decisions. Those three decisions really matter.
Retirement is when you stop sacrificing today for an imaginary tomorrow. When today is complete, in and of itself, you’re retired.
Another thing that helps: I value freedom above everything else. All kinds of freedom: freedom to do what I want, freedom from things I don’t want to do, freedom from my own emotions or things that may disturb my peace. For me, freedom is my number one value. To the extent money buys freedom, it’s great. But to the extent it makes me less free, which it definitely does at some level as well, I don’t like it.
I just have this saying inside my head: “The closer you want to get to me, the better your values have to be.”
That will give you the time and the energy to pursue your own internal peace and happiness. I believe the solution to making everybody happy is to give them what they want.
What is underrated? Judgment. Judgment is underrated.
Can you define judgment? My definition of wisdom is knowing the long-term consequences of your actions. Wisdom applied to external problems is judgment. They’re highly linked; knowing the long-term consequences of your actions and then making the right decision to capitalize on that.
You know the correct answer, but your friend can’t see it, because they’re in the moment of suffering and pain. They’re still wishing reality was different. The problem isn’t reality. The problem is their desire is colliding with reality and preventing them from seeing the truth, no matter how much you say it. The same thing happens when I make decisions.
It’s really important to be able to uncondition yourself, to be able to take your habits apart and say, “Okay, this is a habit I probably picked up when I was a toddler trying to get my parent’s attention. Now I’ve reinforced it and reinforced it, and I call it a part of my identity. Does it still serve me? Does it make me happier? Does it make me healthier? Does it make me accomplish whatever I set out to accomplish?”
I used to identify as libertarian, but then I would find myself defending positions I hadn’t really thought through because they’re a part of the libertarian canon. If all your beliefs line up into neat little bundles, you should be highly suspicious.
The classical virtues are all decision-making heuristics to make one optimize for the long term rather than for the short term.
Charisma is the ability to project confidence and love at the same time.
What can I do for the next sixty days to become a clearer, more independent thinker? Read the greats in math, science, and philosophy. Ignore your contemporaries and news. Avoid tribal identification. Put truth above social approval.
Similarly, the hard sciences are a solid foundation. Microeconomics is a solid foundation. The moment you start wandering outside of these solid foundations you’re in trouble because now you don’t know what’s true and what’s false.
Today, I believe happiness is really a default state. Happiness is there when you remove the sense of something missing in your life. We are highly judgmental survival-and-replication machines. We constantly walk around thinking, “I need this,” or “I need that,” trapped in the web of desires. Happiness is the state when nothing is missing. When nothing is missing, your mind shuts down and stops running into the past or future to regret something or to plan something.
To me, happiness is not about positive thoughts. It’s not about negative thoughts. It’s about the absence of desire, especially the absence of desire for external things. The fewer desires I can have, the more I can accept the current state of things, the less my mind is moving, because the mind really exists in motion toward the future or the past. The more present I am, the happier and more content I will be.
Real happiness only comes as a side-effect of peace. Most of it is going to come from acceptance, not from changing your external environment.
I think the most common mistake for humanity is believing you’re going to be made happy because of some external circumstance. I know that’s not original. That’s not new. It’s fundamental Buddhist wisdom—I’m not taking credit for it. I think I really just recognize it on a fundamental level, including in myself.
The idea you’re going to change something in the outside world, and that is going to bring you the peace, everlasting joy, and happiness you deserve, is a fundamental delusion we all suffer from, including me. The mistake over and over and over is to say, “Oh, I’ll be happy when I get that thing,” whatever it is. That is the fundamental mistake we all make, 24/7, all day long. The fundamental delusion: There is something out there that will make me happy and fulfilled forever. Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want. I don’t think most of us realize that’s what it is. I think we go about desiring things all day long and then wonder why we’re unhappy. I like to stay aware of it, because then I can choose my desires very carefully. I try not to have more than one big desire in my life at any given time, and I also recognize it as the axis of my suffering. I realize the area where I’ve chosen to be unhappy.
To me, the real winners are the ones who step out of the game entirely, who don’t even play the game, who rise above it. Those are the people who have such internal mental and self-control and self-awareness, they need nothing from anybody else.
One of the things I’m trying to get rid of is the word “should.” Whenever the word “should” creeps up in your mind, it’s guilt or social programming. Doing something because you “should” basically means you don’t actually want to do it. It’s just making you miserable, so I’m trying to eliminate as many “shoulds” from my life as possible.
Socially, we’re told, “Go work out. Go look good.” That’s a multi-player competitive game. Other people can see if I’m doing a good job or not. We’re told, “Go make money. Go buy a big house.” Again, external multiplayer competitive game. Training yourself to be happy is completely internal. There is no external progress, no external validation. You’re competing against yourself—it is a single-player game.
Many distinctions between people who get happier as they get older and people who don’t can be explained by what habits they have developed. Are they habits that will increase your long-term happiness rather than your short-term happiness? Are you surrounding yourself with people who are generally positive and upbeat people? Are those relationships low-maintenance? Do you admire and respect but not envy them?
Every time you catch yourself desiring something, say, “Is it so important to me I’ll be unhappy unless this goes my way?” You’re going to find with the vast majority of things it’s just not true.
The more you judge, the more you separate yourself. You’ll feel good for an instant, because you feel good about yourself, thinking you’re better than someone. Later, you’re going to feel lonely. Then, you see negativity everywhere. The world just reflects your own feelings back at you.
Hedonic adaptation is more powerful for man-made things (cars, houses, clothes, money) than for natural things (food, sex, exercise).
One hack is stepping back and looking at previous bits of suffering I’ve had in my life. I write them down. “Last time you broke up with somebody, last time you had a business failure, last time you had a health issue, what happened?” I can trace the growth and improvement that came from it years later.
So maybe ten thousand years from now or a hundred thousand years from now, people will say, “Oh yeah, Americans. I’ve heard of Americans.” You’re going to die one day, and none of this is going to matter. So enjoy yourself. Do something positive. Project some love. Make someone happy. Laugh a little bit. Appreciate the moment. And do your work.
In terms of exercise, we’re probably meant to play instead of running on a treadmill. We’re probably evolved to use all of our five senses equally as opposed to favoring the visual cortex. In modern society, almost all of our inputs and communication are visual. We’re not meant to walk in shoes. A lot of back and foot problems come from shoes.
I’m not an expert, and the problem is diet and nutrition are like politics: everybody thinks they’re an expert. Their identity is wrapped up in it because what they’ve been eating or what they think they should be eating is obviously the correct answer. Everybody has a little religion—it’s just a really difficult topic to talk about. I will just say in general, any sensible diet avoids the combination of sugar and fat together.
When it comes to medicine and nutrition, subtract before you add.
I learned a very important lesson from this: most of our suffering comes from avoidance.
What I find is 90 percent of thoughts I have are fear-based. The other 10 percent may be desire-based.
Impatience with actions, patience with results.
I think almost everything that people read these days is designed for social approval.
My old definition was “freedom to.” Freedom to do anything I want. Freedom to do whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like. Now, the freedom I’m looking for is internal freedom. It’s “freedom from.” Freedom from reaction. Freedom from feeling angry. Freedom from being sad. Freedom from being forced to do things. I’m looking for “freedom from,” internally and externally, whereas before I was looking for “freedom to.”
People who live far below their means enjoy a freedom that people busy upgrading their lifestyles can’t fathom.
All benefits in life come from compound interest, whether in money, relationships, love, health, activities, or habits. I only want to be around people I know I’m going to be around for the rest of my life. I only want to work on things I know have long-term payout.
Anger is a hot coal you hold in your hand while waiting to throw it at somebody.