Cultivating Mindfulness, Peace, and Joy

Category: Books

10 Key Takeaways From The Book and Film “No Impact Man” by Colin Beavan

Colin Beavan knew he didn’t have all the answers, he just knew he wanted to try to make a difference. He set out on a quest to live within his values, which for him meant trying to live with as little waste and negative environmental impact as possible. He invited a documentary film crew and reporters into the journey he took with his family, a level of public vulnerability I find truly admirable. 

Here are my Ten Key Takeaways from the documentation of his year-long No Impact Project:

  1. The point is to try. The point is not to fix everything, to heal the world, to solve all the problems. The point is to mindfully try out the things you really believe in and see what happens. How do you want to be remembered when you die? As someone who ignored the problems, or as someone who tried to make a difference? 
  2. Every choice you make matters. Even if it doesn’t feel like it matters, it does. It doesn’t necessarily matter in the sense that buying one newspaper is going to send us all past the global warming 2°C tipping point. But if we choose to not buy that cup of expensive coffee in a disposable cup with a plastic lid and straw, it can make a change within us. We can notice what that change feels like. Maybe that change feels good and we want more of that change. And, who knows, maybe one of our friends might notice our behavior change, which might inspire them in some way, and so a domino effect takes place. Beavan points out that “the straw that broke the camel’s back” is just one straw; it took thousands of straws before it to finally be that one straw that broke the camel’s back, but each one of the straws were equally important to the process. Every choice matters. 
  3. We need a culture change. We need a way-of-living change. It’s very hard as an individual to change an entire system (say, how we get our power). But it’s not so hard for an individual to change their behaviors. You just have to make a choice.
  4. New technology is only part of the answer. Buying electric cars will still leave us in traffic jams. Powering our televisions with solar power still leaves us frittering away our lives being mildly entertained by watching other people play pretend. New technology is definitely part of the answer in the quest to save humanity, but it’s also up to each of us to decide how we want to live. 
  5. We are victims of Stasis Through Obfuscation. Corporations have an incentive to make things confusing; if we can’t figure out which type of product is really the most environmentally conscious, then an easy answer is to give up trying, pick one, and move on. It is easy to become paralyzed by conflicting information. In my life it has gone like this… One article says eating meat is bad and takes up way more resources and creates more greenhouse gas than alternatives, like tofu. Another article points out how tofu is processed and wrapped in plastic and, thus, is not an eco-conscious choice. So am I supposed to buy tofu or not? This is all a bit challenging to figure out, and now I’m feeling stressed and drained. Time to order some pad thai. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the norm. The interests of the businesses behind all these products want it to be confusing so that we give up trying and just buy whatever is most convenient. It’s important to remember that making change is hard and the way that things are right now is not our fault, but there is something we can do about it. 
  6. Set rules for yourself to make change easier. One thing I love about Beavan’s No Impact Project is that he set rules for himself and his family, guidelines that helped define the project and aligned with his actual values. These were rules like “we will only eat food with ingredients sourced from within 250 miles” or “no more buying disposable anything.” The rules we create for ourselves can vary. The point is not to try to follow his rules. He wasn’t arguing we should all live like “No Impact Man.” The point is to examine earnestly your own life, identify some ways you can do less harm and do more good, and then set rules for yourself to follow. The rules help make all the little decision-making processes we have to go through in our lives easier. If you give yourself a rule of “no more buying disposable anything,” then you can instantly look at any product and know whether or not you can or should buy it–if it’s wrapped in plastic, it stays on the shelf. 
  7. As tools we have Individual Action and Collective Action. We can make changes in our own lives and we can work together in teams. We need to do both. These are not mutually exclusive. It’s not enough to lobby politicians, and it’s not enough to stop eating meat. We need more of both of these things. 
  8. Happiness and The Good Life are not the same as economic growth. Colin illuminates how economic growth, the thing many of us contribute to with our jobs and our spending, does not necessarily equate to happiness growth. Happiness, fulfillment, contentment… pick your word. Over the last 200 years of industrial and technical innovation, consider that we may already have a lot of the technology we need. We may not really need a new iteration of the PlayStation. What if those computer engineers were instead working on ways to bring education or sanitation to those who don’t have access to it? In our own lives, how long do we pursue our own financial growth before we stop and accept that we have enough? If we realize we don’t need all the stuff, how does that impact our “enough number”? We need to find ways to have happier people as well as a happier planet. 
  9. Find your own balance between impact reduction and happiness. Every person will hit a point at the bottom of minimalism where they are not willing to go below when faced with a convenient alternative. Beavan hits this point when his child has soiled multiple rounds of bedsheets in the middle of the night, and he breaks his own rule and uses the washing machine in his building. If we all tried a version of the No Impact Project, most of us would end up with a similar breaking point. That is OK! The goal is not about avoiding all indulgences and completely depriving oneself; it’s about stripping life back to its essentials in order to see clearly what we really need and what we’re OK letting go of. We can use asceticism as a temporary tool to bring clarity to what we truly need and desire. 
  10. What’s good for the planet also happens to be good for us. It sounds obvious, but many of us, myself included, still end up making choices to the contrary. If we take the stairs instead of the elevator, we have the double benefit of avoiding electricity use and improving our physical health. If we choose to eat only local food, we get the two-pronged bonus of minimizing carbon emissions and better body nourishment. If we decide to get rid of our television, we both save on power and make room for more soul-enriching activity. Improving your life and saving the planet are one and the same. 



The idea was not to become an environmental expert and then apply what I’d learned. The idea was to start from scratch—with not a clue about how to deal with our planetary emergency—and stumble forward. To see what I could find out. To see how I evolved.



Growth in gross domestic product, the common wisdom says, is a good thing that all of us should work for. A growing GDP is a sign that we are all doing well, it is said, an indicator of the common good. But as I do my research, I read that the more people get cancer, the more the health sector grows. The more people get divorced, the more the legal sector grows. The more Hurricane Katrina’s there are, the more the emergency services sector grows. Should our goal simply be to blindly “grow our economy,” or should we find ways to ensure that it grows in ways that both improve the quality of life and protect our habitat? Growth in our economy doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s more money in the average person’s pocket, or that the average person is more content. It doesn’t necessarily mean we are all going on more holiday or getting more jet skis. Growth in the economy could just as easily reflect the average person spending his life savings to deal with some terrible family catastrophe. It could also mean that we are all working 10 hours a day instead of eight, that we are all spending twice as much money on our kids at Christmas because we feel guilty for not spending enough time with them.

Since 1950, the U.S. gross domestic product has grown 550 percent. Want to know how much measures of happiness have increased? Just about zero. So, in the service of a healthy economic system, many of us no longer live near our families but cross country to be near jobs. Some of us work two jobs, get more stuff, take only two weeks holiday a year while Europeans take seven. How much satisfaction do we get for all that?”



Do we work for and pay for all this convenience in order to live our lives, or do we live our lives in order to work for and pay for all this convenience?



I would have to find, over the coming year, some sort of middle path that involved neither the self-indulgence of the unconscious consumer nor the self-denial of the ascetic. I wanted to find a way to thoroughly enjoy the fruit without killing the tree. I wanted to find a way of living on the planet’s dividends instead of its capital. … I simply wanted to see if we could learn to behave like good guests while enjoying a good life.



Toward the end of the documentary film “No Impact Man,” Colin Beavan is seen wrapping up his yearlong project by getting out into the community. He speaks to 200 NYU students who are going to try living with no waste for a week. He speaks to different classes of elementary and high school students, adapting his message of mindful consumption age appropriately. He visits the garbage processing area in the Bronx, a community that receives much of New York City’s garbage. He goes to meet with his congressperson to lobby for more environmental policy. He volunteers with a group helping to repopulate with New York water systems with shellfish. He volunteers with another group that takes care of the already-planted trees scattered throughout New York City. 

He mentions how one of the most common questions he gets asked is, “What’s the one thing I should do? The one thing I should change? Should I stop disposing of plastic bags? Should I start eating organic only?” His answer: “If there’s only one thing you’re going to change, go volunteer with an environmental organization.” 

As he gets out into the community, he realizes that doing one year of the No Impact Project pales in comparison to what so many other people are doing, dedicating their entire working lives to environmental causes. He contends that the most profound impact one can have with a single act is to go volunteer with a group of people doing environmental work. It is there that not only can one do some good with their time and energy, but also that one can connect with other people, learn from them, and start to build up a sense of community. 

 I’m convinced. If someone can go for a year producing almost zero waste, shutting off their electricity, only buying food from their local area, and washing their clothes by foot in their bathtub, and their takeaway after that whole experience is that the best thing I can do is go volunteer with an environmental group, I’m listening to that wisdom. 

Join me! 

10% Happier: The Most Important Lessons from the Dan Harris Odyssey of Mindfulness and Compassion

After first coming across the Ten Percent Happier podcast just a handful of weeks ago, and subsequently devouring the first 50 episodes with an aggressive appetite for more and more magnificently mindful conversations with some of the most interesting, knowledgeable, and well-practiced people on the planet, I could not wait to receive Dan Harris’ book: “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story.” 

Above all else, the book was a truly enjoyable, satisfying read with excellent pace and a brilliant balance of substance and humor. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is curious about meditation and who enjoys laughing along with others as they poke fun at themselves. 


With utterly entertaining fashion, Dan Harris takes us from curious, sincere inquiry to outright belly laughter on his skeptical, sarcastic, and transformational journey into the world of meditation. Including pivotal conversations with industry titans, plenty of amusing and sometimes self-deprecating anecdotes, and deliciously flavorful turns of phrase at every turn, 10% Happier is an enticingly crafted story that invites the skeptical reader to learn from Dan’s quest to discover what lies on the other side of practicing mindfulness and compassion. 


In my view, this passage from page 207, when Dan is reflecting on his most recent conversation with Dr. Mark Epstein, offers the most valuable takeaway from the entire book: 

Striving is fine, as long as it’s tempered by the realization that, in an entropic universe, the final outcome is out of your control. If you don’t waste your energy on variables you cannot influence, you can focus much more effectively on those you can. When you are wisely ambitious, you do everything you can to succeed, but you are not attached to the outcome—so that if you fail, you will be maximally resilient, able to get up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fray. That, to use a loaded term, is enlightened self-interest.

Too often we focus on outcomes. The business world trains us to value them. Success is defined by delivering the outcomes of quarterly shareholder profits, monthly sales quotas, and employee performance reviews. A goal is only good if it’s a S.M.A.R.T. goal, with an “M” for Measurable. We judge our own progress with measuring sticks, benchmarks, and finish lines. We operate from a state of incompleteness, and only if we can get the next promotion, get a three-car garage, or get that next thing our neighbor now has, then we will have made it. Then we’ll be able to slow down. Then we can accept what is, that we have and are enough. We have preconceived ideas of the path we are on, of the way things are “supposed” to go. We have expectations of specific end results of our actions, results that will leave us satisfied with the feeling of achievement.

Yet, if we lean fully into acceptance of the way things are, if we develop apathy toward progress and idle our way through life, if we become cushion-perched gelatinous meditation blobs peacefully content with every single waking moment of every single day, then we can clearly see how life will become difficult for us. We are living, human creatures. We have basic survival needs. At some point I’m going to have to admit that my “desire” for a drink of water or my “feeling” of a hunger pang are actually “survival needs.” And humans have found that collective living is easier and better than independence, so we can share jobs and specialize to survive with less hardship. As our community “improves” and “progresses” from working together (first as tribes and then growth all the way through to modern society), at what point do we agree that we are no longer “progressing,” but instead we are over-striving, over-shooting, over-producing, over-consuming, and spending not enough time simply being and enjoying the abundance of here and now?

How can we reconcile accepting life as it is in this moment and also wanting to make things better for ourselves and for others? 

The wisdom in the excerpt above from 10% Happier offers an answer to this contradiction that has plagued me for years. My partner Kristyn has heard me debate with friends ad nauseum about the seemingly unanswerable paradox of these two diametrically opposed traits–acceptance and ambition. It’s the same worldly challenge that New York Times Bestselling Author Gretchen Rubin refers to on the featured image of her homepage: “We can accept ourselves and also expect more from ourselves.” Clearly this notion has been considered by many of us bipedal sapiens. 

Do everything you can to succeed. Do not attach to the outcome. 

In the book, renowned meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein offered to Dan a useful prompt to use whenever this topic arises in oneself: ask “What matters most?” 

If, in any given moment, you are torn between striving for the next thing and sinking into the presence of now, ask yourself, “What matters most?” Your inner voice will reveal the path. 

Wise ambition. That’s a goal worth pursuing. 


Unlike the useless tube at the junction of your large and small intestines, the Appendix in 10% Happier bestows readily digestible utility. In addition to answering a slew of FAQ’s, Harris has conveniently cataloged wonderfully brief meditation instructions in the back of the book. The Appendix covers short steps to getting started with: Mindfulness Meditation, Body Scans, Walking Meditation, Compassion Meditation (aka metta), and Open Awareness Meditation. The instructions are about a half-page each with all meat and no fluff. 


You can purchase 10% Happier from an independent book store near you by clicking right here

On Sabbatical – Week 20: Free People, Friendships, and Fullness

I was hoping to start my week with a flurry of productivity. I had made my Sunday night list of all the projects I was going to tackle throughout the week. I got a good night’s sleep and was feeling energized to attack the week with a passionate energy for getting stuff done. Then, my kid wakes up with a sore throat and can’t go to school. And Kristyn’s going to spend the night at her mom’s to help her out. Welp, there goes that day! I’m practicing letting go of my own wants, learning to adapt to my conditions and to the needs of those around me. I made the best of it by casting my to-do list aside to be with my kids. In doing so, an incredible moment surfaced.

Learn, Then Practice

With my child sick and at home instead of at school, I sat emitting the energy of calm and contentment, positioned next to the window in our family room and reading Raising Free People by Akilah Richards (thanks to Kristyn With a Why for the recommendation). It’s a book that, among other things, argues for unschooling and rethinking the way our educational systems are designed, and it explains the benefits of self-directed learning. So there I was, reading about ways to rethink how children can get educated, to unlearn what I know about how children learn, how even at young ages they know what interests them and what they’re curious about, and my sick child was sitting eight feet away from me and, with no prompting of any kind from me, was choosing to create and solve math problems in her notebook. Talk about a jolt! The exact thing I was reading about was happening right in front of me.

I set my book down, asked if I could join her in her work, and when she happily agreed and was eager to show me the math she was working on, we took the opportunity to lean into her curiosity of this moment, to follow her impulse, and we leveled up her math skills one notch by introducing the concept of doing addition problems vertically, where you line up numbers with the one’s place, the ten’s place, and so on. She almost immediately grasped the concept and was eager to come up with new vertically-oriented addition problems on her own. The only way she would have been receptive to this nugget of math knowledge was for it to come from a place of self-direction. I was simultaneously very glad I had gained a deeper understanding of the unschooling concept by reading Raising Free People and also very glad that I had the presence of mind to put the book down and practice an idea from the book. 

Friendships Evolve Over Time, Especially If I Let Them

This week was the week my recreational summer volleyball team won our league at Maple Tavern in Maple Grove, MN. Although it was a nice feeling to emerge from the season as champions, what really felt like a win was not the volleyball at all, but the conversation I had afterward.  A dear friend of mine and I hung around “the tav” after our games were done, and I have to say, it was just one of those conversations that left me feeling energized, buzzing with the fizziness of a friendship deepening in its closeness. We took turns not just listening to each other, but really being present with and witnessing each other about some of our deepest passions. For him, it was writing his second novel, and for me, it was sustainability and my wanting to put into action some of the lessons I learned from the book Active Hope. I gassed him up with praise and admiration about his being an involved, caring dad, and that one day I’m going to invite him to talk about it on the podcast that I haven’t created yet. We both teared up at various points.

It’s a new feeling, getting older and realizing that, as I change, the people I gravitate toward change. The friends of my past aren’t necessarily in alignment with my present, with my current direction. My inner circle is evolving. It’s important to me to let go of old relationships if they are no longer serving me and to lean into the ones that breathe life and energy my way. 

Kind of a big deal

Appreciating the Fullness of My Life

Toward the end of the week, we had an unfriendly illness that swept through our family, as can happen in a household with small children. It meant, unfortunately, that Kristyn and I would have to miss going to a concert we were very much looking forward to – Daði Freyr had come all the way from Iceland to perform at First Avenue. Daði Freyr is a talented and hilariously creative musician. I fell in love with his music and style as instantly as Kristyn introduced me to him. I listened to his music, I learned his dance moves from his YouTube videos, and I even played his video game. In 2021 I and my family listened to his songs on Spotify so much that, as seen from this photo I posted on Instagram, I was in his top 0.05% of Spotify listeners that year. This wasn’t going to be just any concert. I’m a Daði Freyr superfan. 

Not only that, but we were planning to make a double date out of it, as my friend and her spouse had also bought tickets to the show. And at the eleventh hour, we had to be honest with ourselves about how crummy we were feeling, and we chose not to go. 

After I’d let my friend know we weren’t going to make it, and after I’d sold my tickets online to recoup most of the cost, I took a moment to sit and assess how I was feeling about it. I realized that we’d had so many awesome experiences this past summer, I wasn’t really too devastated by having one fewer awesome experience. I have been living what feels like a full life. I don’t need this. Plus, going to the show would’ve compromised the health of others. Even if I wouldn’t have been putting anyone else’s health at risk, staying up late and dancing my butt off (which would have been inevitable) would probably have set me back a few days from healing my body and getting back to feeling normal. It was the right decision. So instead, I just watched (and danced along with) this music video a few times from my living room. I enjoyed myself. The drinks were cheaper, too. 


Growing up in the Great Lakes region of the United States, I’ve developed an appreciation for the seasons. Early autumn is my absolute favorite time of year, every year, no matter what. The temperatures are comfortable, the mosquitos and flies are mostly gone, the harvest is in full swing, and the leaves start to change. My neighbor has the best tree on the block, the maple tree shown below. I’m thinking it might be the inspiration for my first tattoo, so I wanted to make sure to get a nice picture of it. 

The best tree on the block

Lessons From “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer

After finishing Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild, I immediately took to my journal to write down my top lessons and takeaways from the stories of Chris McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp and the other adventurers noted in the book. 

I’m sharing this journal entry as-written to retain the essence of how I was feeling immediately after finishing the book.

  1. Call your parents. They always want to hear from you.
  2. Life with less can be more fulfilling. 
  3. Convention is the enemy.
  4. We are prisoners of society, of civilization.
  5. Experiences are best when shared. Chris comes to this realization toward the end of his life after spending several months in isolation in Alaska. At first this expedition made him feel more alive than anything else. But after a time, he concludes experiences are better when shared with others. 
  6. Relationships and love matter. 
  7. Document your own life with pictures and journals. 
  8. Surround yourself with writings that move you. 
  9. Don’t wait to start living out your beliefs. Now is the time. 
  10. You can get by with much less than you think. 
  11. Chris McCandless blindly trusted so many strangers: for a ride, for shelter, for employment. To these people unknown to him, he showed courtesy, honesty, and hard work. In response, they all helped him. What would happen if we all gave people we don’t know the benefit of the doubt? Gave them compassion, love, and respect as the default? 
  12. Your limits are much farther than you think they are. Pushing those limits can be thrilling and exhilarating. 
  13. When embarking on a new endeavor, take time to learn from experts who have walked the path before you. 
  14. Be prepared. 

If you enjoyed this article and the book Into The Wild, you might also enjoy the following:

My vision is to help create a more peaceful and compassionate world with a sustainable future for humanity, returning balance between humans and the natural world. If you share in this vision, I’d love to connect with you:

The 5 Biggest Takeaways from John McPhee’s “Draft No. 4”

There are writers, there are great writers, and then there’s John McPhee. 

Having not read much about writing and the writing process ever in my life, and then reading Draft No. 4, it feels as if I endeavored to learn Spanish by plopping myself down in The Zócalo in the heart Mexico City. 

It would take a lifetime to get on McPhee’s level of creative nonfiction writing, but there are five key takeaways in the book that anyone who writes anything (even emails) can extract and implement today to level up their writing. 

The Significance of Draft No. 4

The first draft is the hardest. Putting words to a blank page is every writer’s plight. 

If you lack confidence in setting one word after another and sense that you are stuck in a place from which you will never be set free, if you feel sure that you will never make it and were not cut out to do this, if your prose seems stillborn and you completely lack confidence, you must be a writer. 


McPhee says to expect a 4:1 ratio of time between the first draft and the second, third, and fourth drafts combined. If the first draft takes a month, then you should be able to produce drafts two, three, and four within a week. 

The way to do a piece of writing is three or four times over, never once. For me, the hardest part comes first, getting something – anything – out in front of me. Sometimes in a nervous frenzy I just fling words as if I were flinging mud at a wall. Blurt out, heave out, babble out something – anything – as a first draft. With that, you have achieved a sort of nucleus. Then, as you work it over and alter it, you begin to shape sentences that score higher with the ear and eye. Edit it again – top to bottom. The chances are that about now you’ll be seeing something that you are sort of eager for others to see. And all that takes time.


McPhee goes on to remark about “the interstitial time,” the downtime in between writing and editing where even though you aren’t putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, your brain is still at work. 

What I have left out is the interstitial time. You finish that first awful blurting, and then you put the thing aside. You get in your car and drive home. On the way, your mind is still knitting at the words. You think of a better way to say something, a good phrase to correct a certain problem. Without the drafted version – if it did not exist – you obviously would not be thinking of things that would improve it. In short, you may be actually writing only two or three hours a day, but your mind… is working on it twenty-four hours a day, but only if some sort of draft or earlier version already exists. Until it exists, writing has not really begun. 


The essence of writing is revision. This understanding takes a huge weight off the first draft. There’s no pressure. The first draft is not going to be good. Masters like John McPhee don’t expect it to be good. Know the bar is extremely low on a first draft. Are there words on the page? Your first draft is a success! 



McPhee has encountered many expert editors throughout his career from who he has gleaned several revision processes that work. 

One of these is, when reviewing an early draft, to read it top to bottom and simply circle or highlight any word that seems like it could be improved. Then revisit each of these highlighted words and work out better ones. 

Use a dictionary, not a thesaurus. 

You draw a box not only around any word that does not seem quite right but also around words that fulfill their assignment but seem to present an opportunity. While the word inside the box may be perfectly O.K., there is likely to be an even better word for this situation, a word right smack on the button, and why don’t you try to find such a word? If none occurs, don’t linger; keep reading and drawing boxes, and later revisit them one by one. If there’s a box around “sensitive,” because it seems pretentious in the context, try “susceptible.” Why “susceptible”? Because you looked up “sensitive” in the dictionary and it said “highly susceptible.” With dictionaries, I spend a great deal more time looking up words I know than words I have never heard of—at least ninety-nine to one. The dictionary definitions of words you are trying to replace are far more likely to help you out than a scattershot wad from a thesaurus. If you use the dictionary after the thesaurus, the thesaurus will not hurt you. So draw a box around “wad.” Webster: “The cotton or silk obtained from the Syrian swallowwort, formerly cultivated in Egypt and imported to Europe.” Oh. But read on: “A little mass, tuft, or bundle . . . a small, compact heap.” Stet that one.



Most stories have a beginning, middle, and end. But that thinking is a little restrictive. Say you’re writing a business story following the life of a high-performing B2B Sales Executive, and in the day you are shadowing the subject, nothing overly exciting happens until 4:45 P.M., when the Sales Exec finally reaches the C-level buyer at one of his biggest prospects on the phone. A meeting is set, the phone call ends, and the Sales Exec packs it in for the day. Will the reader be most engaged if you write this story chronologically, making the reader slog through 80% of the piece before they get to the best part? Perhaps a different structure, one that’s not a straight line, would be best? Maybe you line up an interview with the C-level buyer, and get their perspective from that fateful day. Then you could have parallel stories from each subject’s point of view, ultimately arriving at the moment of truth – the phone call. Now we’ve got something worth reading! 

One of McPhee’s examples about how he used structure to tell the best story involved a bear. Malcolm Harris from The New Republic sums it up well. 

Inspired by the preponderance of natural cycles in the Arctic, McPhee shapes a story about Alaska around a circle. The first half of the arc will take place linearly, progressing from the beginning in the straightforward humanly experienced direction of time. Halfway through, the narrative flashes back to an earlier point, which we follow to the end, which is also the beginning. McPhee’s concern is less a desire to ape the movement of the moon, and more that the trip’s most dramatic event (a grizzly bear encounter) occurs earlier than it would ideally, which is “about three-fifths of the way along, a natural place for a high moment in any dramatic structure.” McPhee makes even the limited power of narrative sound awesome: “You’re a nonfiction writer. You can’t move that bear around like a king’s pawn or a queen’s bishop. But you can, to an important and effective extent, arrange a structure that is completely faithful to fact.” You can’t move bears, but you can move time, and that’s just as good.


It Takes As Long As It Takes

Giving yourself deadlines for a good piece of writing has adverse affects on the quality of the writing. This is especially important if the piece requires research, interviews, and observations out in the world.

Say you’re writing a piece about successful Chief Marketing Officers and the daily habits they attribute their success to. You seek out to collect data, making phone calls and lining up interviews with your dream list of subject matter experts. Having read enough similar books and essays, you know you will need at least five CMO’s thoughts to have enough substance for the piece. After many hours of phone calls and attempts, you’ve only been able to interview two people. You told yourself you wanted to get this project done in two weeks, and now one week has already come and gone. Do you press on with just the two sources and hope it will be enough? One path – change the deadline. It takes as long as it takes. Don’t change your vision and plan because of a deadline.


Keep an Open Mind to the True Story

Continuing the above example, perhaps one of your two interviewees was particularly colorful, open, illuminating. The interview was supposed to be thirty minutes; it went for two and a half hours. Perhaps she was ultra dialed in to her daily regimen with a laser focus on how each minute of her days are spent. Perhaps, then, the best path forward is to alter the plan for the piece entirely, and write a personal profile on this one CMO. 

The story is what the story is. Your job as the writer is to have eyes open enough to see it. 



What’s your biggest takeaway from John McPhee’s “Draft No. 4”? What other sources of writing inspiration and knowledge have you found particularly useful? Let me know in the Comments! 

How to Discover Meaning and Purpose in Your Life

Having just finished Viktor Frankl’s A Man’s Search For Meaning, I’m on an existential meaning-of-life high right now! 

Frankl’s notion of Logotherapy states that the primary motivational force in humans is to find meaning in life.

The basic principles are:

  • Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most horrific ones.
  • Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life. 
  • We have the freedom to find meaning in what we do, or in what we experience, when faced with any situation, including unavoidable suffering. 


He states we can find meaning in three different ways: 

  1. By creating a work or doing a deed
  2. By experiencing something or encountering someone
  3. By the attitude we choose to take in any circumstance


Two other principles in the book particularly struck me – not striving for happiness and the multitude of meaning.


Happiness is not something one should strive for; rather, if one seeks and finds meaning, happiness will naturally appear. So, if you are feeling down and try to mentally will yourself to be happy, it will be a challenge. But if you instead find meaning by, say, creating something, your spirits will inevitably take a turn for the better. 

There is no one “meaning of life.” Meaning varies from person to person, from day to day, and from moment to moment. What is important to you may not be to another. What was meaningful to you this morning may not be meaningful to you tomorrow, or even a minute later. Asking someone, “What is the meaning of life?” is equivalent to asking a Chess Grandmaster, “What is the best chess move in the world?” There isn’t an answer to that question; it all depends on the situation. This is an incredibly uplifting view on finding meaning in your life, because there is no “right answer,” which means there is no wrong answer. The answer is right in front of you in this very moment, and the only person that can know it is you. It’s also a useful mental framework when serving and helping others, to know whatever gives you meaning will not be the same for them. 


This book helped me realize that if I’m ever feeling stuck, overwhelmed, unfocused, anxious, or depressed, I can ask myself the following questions:

  • Am I creating something right now? 
  • Am I doing a deed right now? 
  • Am I having an interesting experience right now? 
  • Am I encountering another person and having an interaction with them right now? 
  • Is there a better attitude I can choose to take in this moment? 

If I answer ‘no’ to the first four questions, then maybe I should stop doing whatever it is I’m doing and start doing one of those four activities because it will be sure to be a meaningful endeavor. 

If I answer ‘yes’ to the last question, then the next step, while not always easy, is simple – improve your ‘tude, dude!



Have you read Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning? What other lessons and takeaways did you glean from the book? How have you been applying them in your life? What other similar texts do you recommend? Let me know in the Comments! 

Tribe of Mentors – Top Takeaways from the Life Advice Masterpiece by Tim Ferriss

I read Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From the Best in the World. Now you don’t have to! (You still should, though. You can buy it here from Amazon.)

I gained IMMENSE value from this book. So much so that, while reading it, I made a point to glean at least one takeaway from every person in the book and have cataloged the juiciest pearls of wisdom below.

Much of the advice in this book contradicts other advice in the book. This is why it is wise to heed the insight of Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō while reading the advice in this article, or when receiving any advice anywhere:

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; instead, seek what they sought.” 


My advice? Focus on one insight that really speaks to you, internalize it, and take action on it. Then move on to the next.



Most Interesting Recommended Reading List



Steven Pressfield
  • Get real-world experience. Be a cowboy. Drive a truck. Join the Marine Corps. Get out of the hyper-competitive “life hack” frame of mind. Get out into the real dirt world and start failing. You’ve got ten lifetimes ahead of you. 
  • When hesitating to get into a hard workout, remind yourself that afterward you’ll be able to think, “Nothing I face today will be harder than what I just did.” 
  • The disease of our times is that we live on the surface. We’re like the Platte River, a mile wide and an inch deep. Real work and real satisfaction come from the opposite of what the web provides. They come from going deep into something – the book you’re writing, the album, the movie – and staying there for a long, long time. 


Susan Cain
  • Minor key music is elevating and transcendent, not sad like many people think. 
  • Set up your life so that it is as comfortable and happy as possible – and so that it accommodates your creative work. 
  • I love espresso, but I only allow myself one latte a day, and I save it for when I’m doing my creative work because it has trained me, Pavlovian style, to associate writing with the pleasure of coffee. 


Kyle Maynard
  • “Not dead, can’t quit.” – Richard Machowicz, former Navy SEAL
  • “Follow your bliss” has become my true north. Thinking about what makes me happy doesn’t give the same clarity as what gives me bliss


Terry Crews
  • The more you run from your fears, the bigger they get, but the more you go into them, the more they tend to vanish like a mirage. 
  • Competition is the opposite of creativity. 
  • Life is not a “young man’s game,” it’s an “inspired person’s game.” 


Debbie Millman
  • Busy is a decision. 
  • I do not believe in work-life balance. I believe that if you view your work as a calling, it is a labor of love rather than laborious. Your calling can become a life-affirming engagement that can provide its own balance and spiritual nourishment. Ironically, it takes hard work to achieve this. 


Naval Ravikant
  • Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want. Happiness, or at least peace, is the sense that nothing is missing in this moment. No desires running amok. It’s okay to have a desire. But pick a big one and pick it carefully. Drop the small ones. 
  • The genuine love for reading itself, when cultivated, is a superpower. The means of learning are abundant – it’s the desire to learn that’s scarce. Read what you want, not what you’re supposed to. 


Matt Ridley
  • Specialize – the great human achievement is to specialize as a producer of goods or services so that you can diversify as a consumer. Self-sufficiency is another word for poverty.
  • Listen to books as you fall asleep. By setting the timer carefully and rewinding a little every time you wake, you can miss almost none of a book. 


Bozoma Saint John
  • Be the change you wish to see in the world. 


Tim Urban
  • Working as a writer on your own hours, it’s tempting to get into the romantic notion that you don’t play by society’s rules – you work from home in your underwear, you do your most inspired writing at 3 A.M., you never set an alarm, etc. The problem is – it doesn’t work well. Make a schedule for yourself. 
  • Obsess over figuring out the funnest, most exciting, most natural shape of yourself as a writer and start doing that. Imagine you are writing for a stadium full of replicas of yourself – now you know exactly what topics interest your audience, what writing style they like, and what their sense of humor is. By focusing inward on yourself as a writer instead of outward on what you think readers will want to read, you’ll end up creating the best and most original work. 


Janna Levin
  • Life is the obstacles. There is no underlying path. Our role here is to get better at navigating those obstacles. Strive to find calm, measured responses and see hindrances as a chance to problem-solve. 


Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  • We need a new diversity – not one based on biological characteristics and identity politics but a diversity of opinion and worldviews. 


Graham Duncan
  • Dropped off daughter late at school and I was impatient, so she asked me, “Dad, what exactly would be the worst thing about being late?” It completely shifted my mindset.


Mike Maples Jr. 
  • Step back, slow down, and ask the five whys. Get five levels deep with “why” to find the root cause of an issue. 


Soman Chainani
  • Have something every day you’re looking forward to. 
  • Don’t use “steppingstones” in your career. It says you clearly aren’t invested in what you’re doing. You have one life to live. Time is valuable. If you’re using steppingstones, you’re relying on someone else’s path or definition of success. Make your own. 


Dita Von Teese
  • You can be a juicy ripe peach and there’ll still be someone who doesn’t like peaches.


Jesse Williams
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid?


Dustin Moskowitz
  • Most people blame others or circumstances in their life for their suffering, but Buddhists believe we are the causes of our own suffering.


Richa Chadha
  • Be so good they can’t ignore you. 


Max Levchin
  • “The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting.” – Walt Disney


Neil Strauss
  • The secret to change and growth is not willpower, but positive community.
  • The outcome is not the outcome. What we think of as endpoints to a goal are really just forks in a road that is endlessly forking. In the big picture of life, we don’t know whether a particular success or failure is actually helping or hurting us. Think instead: Did I do my best,  given who I was and what I knew at the time? And what can I learn from the outcome to make my best better next time? 
  • Criticism is not failure. If you’re not being criticized, you’re probably not doing anything exceptional. 


Veronica Belmont
  • Bad recommendation – take all feedback into consideration. Not all feedback is created equal, and not all ideas from your users are good ones.


Patton Oswalt
  • Daily meditation, twice a day. 
  • Don’t try to have a “social antenna” rather than a moral or creative compass. Trying to second-guess what the masses will accept or reject always leads to stagnation. Work from within! 


Lewis Cantley
  • Design a life so you don’t need an automobile. 
  • Choose a profession that is easy for you to do and that allows you to be creative. 
  • Sugar is toxic. 


Jerzy Gregorek
  • I told one of my clients who blamed her husband for everything to take 100 percent responsibility for her part in their interactions. “This way, you will be free of trying to control him, and you will be able to find constructive solutions in your relationship.” 
  • Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.


Aniela Gregorek
  • “To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children… to leave the world a bit better… to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “If I accept you as you are, I make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Say no to negativity. 


Amelia Boone
  • No one owes you anything. 
  • For every major event in my life, I assign a song. I keep these songs in a playlist, ordered chronologically. I can go back through and listen and relive major experiences, both highs and lows. 


Joel McHale
  • Pursue the dreams that are planted in you already. 
  • Help people who are less fortunate than you.
  • Help the planet. 


Ben Stiller
  • Be here now. 
  • People are too aware of trying to figure out what’s “hot” and trying to emulate that. Ultimately, you need to develop your own voice as a creator. 


Anna Holmes
  • Follow your curiosity, wherever you can find it. Embracing a curious mind and always trying to learn more – about others, about yourself, about the world and our place within it – is an important way to express yourself. 


Andrew Ross Sorkin
  • Persistence matters more than talent. 


Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Everything’s a remix. Of course, there’s such a thing as being overly derivative, but I tend to value sincerity over originality. I perform better when I focus less on being original and more on being honest. 
  • Write as if it’s for an audience, even if you’ll never show the writing to anyone. By having to explain whatever is vexing you in writing to a “reader” with no prior knowledge, I’m forced to identify and parse all the elements and nuances of what’s really going on. 


Vitalik Buterin
  • Be interdisciplinary. 


Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
  • Live. Give. Forgive. 
  • Face fear full of hope, knowing that whatever challenge lies ahead, you are equal to it, and just deliver a message that is precisely the opposite of fear and defensiveness. 
  • Remember your ultimate destination every time you feel overwhelmed. Remembering that destination will help you distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted. 


Julia Galef
  • Avoid consuming media that’s just telling you things you already know and agree with. Remind yourself how much time you’re wasting by not learning anything. 
  • Uncertainty over Expected Value just gets folded into Expected Value. So, if I know that one of option A or B is going to be great, and the other’s going to be a disaster, but I’m totally unsure which is which, then they have the same expected value. 


Turia Pitt
  • Do a gratitude practice every morning, every day. Write down three specific things you’re genuinely grateful for. 


Annie Duke
  • Disconnect failure from outcomes. Just because you lose doesn’t mean you failed, and just because you won doesn’t mean you succeeded – not when you define success and failure around making good decisions that will win in the long run. 


Jimmy Fallon
  • Go for a walk.
  • Meditate. 


Esther Perel
  • It’s the quality of your relationships that will determine the quality of your life.
  • Different parts of me come alive when I switch languages.
  • Other people see you differently than the way you see yourself. That multiplicity of perspectives is essential to making us who we are.


Maria Sharapova
  • Losing makes you think in ways victories can’t. You begin asking questions instead of feeling like you have the answers.


Adam Robinson
  • If you want to change the world, you have to enroll others in your plans and vision. Not only that, but immense pleasures and satisfactions can be derived from focusing on others. The more you give to others, the more the universe gives you back in return.
  • Meditation is a way to relinquish control of the conscious mind so that the more powerful unconscious mind can take over, and analysis of the world improves. 


Josh Waitzkin
  • When dealing with a failure:
    • Find the thematic or psychological lesson hidden in the technical error (which hugely amplifies the ensuing growth)
    • Have a sense of the beauty and potency of how the loss is actively improving you while still in the thick of the pain of the blow. 
  • Do what you love, do it in a way that you love, and pour your heart and soul into every moment of it. Do not be subject to inertia. Challenge your assumptions and the assumptions of those around you as a way of life. 


Ann Miura-Ko
  • If you love something enough, it is far easier to really commit. 
  • Develop a philosophy of giving and generosity.
  • The practice of judgment and reasoning found in philosophy, history, and literature are skills we should to continue to hone. 


Jason Fried
  • “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.” – Betty Reese
  • “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt
  • “Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you, just measure it in inches.” – Andy Warhol
  • “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – William Bruce Cameron
  • Focus on your writing skills. It’s the one thing that really helps people stand out. More and more communication is written today. Get great at presenting yourself with words, and words alone, and you’ll be far ahead of most. 


Arianna Huffington
  • People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills. There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind… So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself. 
  • Burnout is not the price you have to pay for success. When we prioritize our well-being, our performance goes up across the board. 


Gary Vaynerchuk
  • Macro patience, micro speed. 
  • When feeling overwhelmed or unfocused, I pretend my family has died in a horrific accident. It sounds weird, but it’s what drives me. I go to a very dark place, really feel it, feel that pain in my heart, and then realize no matter what I’m dealing with right now, that it’s not even in the same universe of something like that. Then I become grateful for losing that client, missing that opportunity, getting made fun of, etc. 


Tim O’Reilly
  • Create more value than you capture
  • Roll out of bed, do a plank for two minutes and a downward dog for two minutes. This gets your metabolism going and makes you much more likely to do a more vigorous bout of exercise. 
  • Listen to your inner voice, which tells you what to choose. It is this ability to wait quietly for the right moment, rather than rushing about aimlessly, that can lead even an ambitious success-hunter to capture the biggest game. 


Tom Peters
  • They say “Thing big! Have a compelling vision!” I say: Think small. Do something super cool by the end of the day! Excellence is the next five minutes or nothing at all. It’s the quality of your next five-minute conversation. It’s the quality of your next email. Forget the long term. Make the next five minutes rock! 


Bear Grylls
  • Storms make us stronger. Don’t shy away from hard times. Tackle them head-on, move toward the path less trodden, riddled with obstacles, because most other people run at the first sign of battle. The storms give us a chance to define ourselves, to distinguish ourselves, and we always emerge from them stronger. 


Brené Brown
  • Problem identification is always a sound investment of time, money, and energy. Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” It feels uncomfortable to spend time and resources trying to figure out exactly what the problem is – we want to jump to fixing way too fast. Most of us are plagued with action bias and struggle to stay in problem identification. Getting clear about what’s wrong and why it’s a problem is the best investment you can make at home or work. 


Leo Babatua
  • You are good enough just as you are. Relax, and breathe into the moment.
  • Ask yourself, “What’s the most loving thing I can do for myself and others right now?”


Mike D
  • The structural demands of meditation are very doable in the context of our current lives. Twenty minutes when we get up and twenty minutes toward the end of the day. It is a safe place where you can go deeply into your own trauma and drama, free from fear. It decreases being reactive and clears space to be proactive. 


Kevin Kelly
  • Don’t try to find your passion. Instead master some skill, interest, or knowledge that others find valuable. You don’t have to love it, you just have to be the best at it. Once you master it, you’ll be rewarded with new opportunities that will allow you to move away from tasks you dislike and toward those that you enjoy. If you continue to optimize your mastery, you’ll eventually arrive at your passion. 


Ashton Kutcher
  • Shit or get off the pot. Too many people are waiting to get shit set up just right so they can do the thing they are gonna do. It’s time. 
  • Posting about it isn’t doing anything. It’s just like talk… it’s cheap! Too many people think they are supporting a cause, and the only thing they are doing is posting about it on social media. Doing something is doing something, everything else is just talk. 


Brandon Stanton
  • Be very careful with the moral high ground. Everyone has different moral codes, and very few people intentionally make immoral decisions. No matter how egregious the crime, the criminal usually has a reason for viewing it as morally acceptable. 


Jérôme Jarre
  • I wish we could all start seeing social media as having a giant billboard for millions of people every day. I know so many people who were against Trump but were talking about him, criticizing, on their social media every day. Would you put up a giant billboard of someone you don’t want to see elected? Probably not. 
  • Make yourself proud. 
  • You are 99 years old, on your deathbed, and you have a chance to come back to right now? What would you do?
  • Before eating, I pray. Not religiously, but more for setting intentions. Feel grateful for the food on your plate, especially if it has an animal product on it. 
  • We are all mini gods. I mean this in the sense of creators, in a way that should not feed our ego but our consciousness. This means the entire universe is not just outside but also within us. 
  • Prioritize connecting with what’s real: nature, your soul, your inner child. 
  • Most of the world is asleep today, playing a small role in a gigantic illusion. You can choose a different life. It’s all within. You will know the answers when you take the time to find yourself and trust yourself. 
  • If you are studying business/PR/marketing, then drop out today. The world is already full of marketers and businessmen. The world doesn’t need more of that. The world needs healers and problem-solvers who use their hearts. Your heart is a million times more powerful than your brain. 


Fedor Holz
  • Ask the right questions. Dive deeper and discover someone’s why. Ask how someone feels and why they behaved a certain way.


Eric Ripert
  • Being a good human, and the way to true inner happiness, is through altruistic actions, being mindful of others. 
  • Live life in three parts: 1/3 business, 1/3 family, 1/3 self.
  • The more you divide your focus, the more each endeavor can suffer from your lack of attention.


Sharon Salzberg
  • You are a person worthy of love.
  • If feeling overwhelmed or unfocused, ask yourself, “What do you need right now in order to be happy? Is it something other than what is happening right now?” 


Franklin Leonard
  • He has been described by NBC News as “the man behind Hollywood’s secret screenplay database, ‘The Black List.'” In 2005, Franklin surveyed 100 film industry development executives about their favorite scripts from that year that had not been made into feature films. Since then the voter pool has grown to 500 film executives. Now, more than 300 Black List screenplays have been made as feature films, including Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, and Argo


Peter Guber
  • The great majority of that which gives you angst never happens, so you must evict it. Don’t let it live rent-free in your brain.
  • Reinvent yourself regularly. See your world as an ever-increasing set of realities and seize the day.


Greg Norman
  • Your dreams are the blueprint to reality. 
  • Stand on one leg when brushing your teeth. 


Daniel Ek
  • If you dare, then you have already gotten further ahead than 99 percent of all the others. 
  • Good things come to those who work their asses off. 


Strauss Zelnick
  • Start slowly with working out; develop the habit of doing exercise for about three months and it’s likely to stick. Start with 2-3x/week. 
  • While it can feel embarrassing and uncomfortable to apologize, it’s a sign of maturity and good character. Unfortunately there is no particular magic to saying “I’m sorry.” Just do it. 


Steve Jurvetson
  • Having tasted synthetic meat, I believe it will accelerate the development of human morality, much like an economic alternative to slavery helped society acknowledge the horrors of slavery. When we look back 2,000 years, we can see how much we have changed as culture matures. It’s much more difficult to identify something that we do in our current lives and the mainstream considers moral, but our future selves will consider immoral. I believe that in a few years we’ll look back and marvel at the barbarism and stunning environmental waste (water consumption and methane production) of meat harvesting today. 
  • Celebrate the childlike mind. The best scientists and engineers nurture a mind that’s playful, open-minded, and unrestrained by the inner voice of reason, collective cynicism, or fear of failure. 
  • Neural plasticity does not disappear in adults. It just requires mental exercise. Use it or lose it. Bottom line: embrace lifelong learning. Do something new. Physical exercise is repetitive; mental exercise is eclectic. 


Tony Hawk
  • Stay present and make yourself available to your loved ones instead of chasing every business opportunity and keeping yourself distracted with work, hobbies, or travel. 
  • Success should not be measured by financial gain; true success is doing something you love for a living. Learn every aspect of your chosen field or craft, as it will give you an advantage over any competitors, and set you up for more – often better – job opportunities. 


Liv Boeree
  • The consequences of your actions matter far more than the actions themselves. 
  • Whenever I have to make a prediction about something uncertain, such as “How likely is my partner to get mad about me not doing the dishes?” I know try to assign a numerical percentage to fuzzy words like “maybe,” “sometimes,” “occasionally,” and “probably.” I try to picture exactly what I mean as a number on a sliding scale between 0 to 100. 


Anníe Mist Þórisdóttir
  • Try to stop worrying about the future. Focus on making the most out of every single day believing it will get you to where you want to be. 
  • Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become, and the hours of practice, and the coaches who have pushed you, is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back… play for her.


Mark Bell
  • Cut down on nervous tension by going up to people, introducing yourself, and shaking their hand. 
  • The way to get strongest is to lift what is optimal and not what is maximal.
  • You’re either in or you’re in the way. 
  • Ignore what everyone else is doing. Racehorses have blinders for a reason. 


Ed Coan
  • Do squats with pauses at the bottom. The only way to get out of the bottom once you stop is for your whole body to push and sync at the right time. 
  • How to devise a training plan you’ll stick to:
    • Write down every day of the week for x weeks
    • Write every set, every rep, and every weight for every single exercise predetermined for each day
    • Stop and look at the routine and ask yourself, “Is every single thing here doable?”
    • If you have to think about it, change it. Make it so that you know 100 percent everything is doable. 
    • When you start that routine, imagine how positive your mental outlook is. 


Ray Dalio
  • Think for yourself while being radically open-minded. 
  • Love looking at what you don’t know, your mistakes, and your weaknesses, because understanding them is essential for making the most of your life. 


Jacqueline Novogratz
  • Learn to balance and hold the audacity to dream a different world with the humility to start with the world as it has been. 
  • Live the Questions, which is a simple reminder to have the moral courage to live in the gray, sit with uncertainty but not in a passive way. Live the questions so that, one day, you will live yourself into the answers.


Brian Koppelman
  • Writers should follow their curiosity, obsessions, and fascinations. Writers should not write based on a marketing calculation of demand potential. 


Stewart Brand
  • CrossFit. Swagger in, stagger out. Repeat


Sarah Elizabeth Lewis
  • The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. 
  • There is no earth-spinning committee. Relax. We are all part of something larger. We can impact the laws of nature with how we treat the planet, and we can work with the laws of nature to manifest things in our world, but we can’t create these laws or destroy them. We live in a world governed by them. Feeling overwhelmed or unfocused? Get into nature to remind yourself of these systems and laws that govern movements. 


Gabor Maté
  • Ultimately, your gift to the world is who you are. It is both your gift and your fulfillment. 
  • Don’t confuse being driven with being authentically animated by an inner calling. One state leaves you depleted and unfulfilled. The other fuels your soul and makes your heart sing. 
  • Is what I’m doing right now aligned with my life’s calling? You have a choice in every moment. 


Steve Case
  • Lean into the future. Position yourself for what’s happening next versus what’s happening now. 
  • Be confident in the skills you have. 
  • Be fearless. Babe Ruth was not only the home run king; he was also the strikeout king. 
  • If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, you must go together. 


Linda Rottenberg
  • For leaders, rather than strive to be superhuman (“don’t let them see you sweat/cry/etc.”), strive to be less super and more human
  • Not only is crazy a compliment, but if you’re not called crazy when you start somethign new, then you’re not thinking big enough! 
  • (Nicely) stalking people is an underrated startup strategy. Find a little courage and reach out to a mentor you admire. 


Tommy Vietor
  • Don’t worry about making money. Don’t stress about having a plan. Try as hard as you can to find something you love. It will never get easier than right now to recklessly pursue your passion. Do it. 
  • I can feel my blood pressure go up as I try to figure out what to focus on. The world will go on if I don’t read/create/do everything. I will always be better off consuming a smaller amount of high-quality information than trying to consume it all. 
  • Stop looking at your phone. 


Larry King
  • The secret of this radio business; there is no secret. Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask a question. Don’t be afraid to sound stupid. 


Muna AbuSulayman
  • Do your best. But also, take it easy. 
  • When I overcommit, I lose focus and desire to do the work at hand. Learn to say no. Loss of focus can be a symptom of not caring about your work. This needs a lot of reflection and discussion with mentors to figure out whether you need a break, a vacation, or a change of career. 
  • The best investment I ever made was investing in my children when they were young. 


Sam Harris
  • No society in human history ever suffered because its people became too reasonable. Only a commitment to honest reasoning can allow us to cooperate with billions of strangers in an open-ended way. 
  • Having a podcast has allowed me to connect with a wide range of fascinating people whom I wouldn’t otherwise meet – and our conversations reach a much larger audience than my books ever will. I feel extremely lucky that my career as a writer and speaker has coincided with the birth of this technology. 
  • Don’t worry about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. Just find a profitable and interesting use for the next three to five years. 


Maurice Ashley
  • In order to become a Grandmaster, you must already be one. 
  • I wake up each day with the firm conviction that I am nowhere near my full potential. “Greatness” is a verb. I spend my years desperately looking to improve who I am from year to year. Greatness is not a final destination, but a series of small acts done daily in order to constantly rejuvenate and refresh our skills in a daily effort to become a better version of ourselves. 
  • Strive to be completely open and transparent in relationships. Speak truths that resonate from your soul. 


John Arnold
  • Advice is almost always driven by anecdotal experience, and thus has limited value and relevance. There is no universal path to success. 
  • Sitting through an unproductive meeting has huge opportunity costs. People struggle with equilibrating time and money. Many organizations fret over small, direct expenses, yet have no misgivings about keeping superfluous staff tied up in a conference room for hours. 


Mr. Money Mustache
  • The real measure of a good life is, “How happy and satisfied am I with my life right now?”
  • Look at every activity as you go through your day and think, “Is this contributing to getting me a better day – today – and if not, is there anybody in the world who has managed to design this activity out of their lives and still success beyond my level?”
  • A high savings rate (or “profit margin on life”) is by far the best strategy for a great and creative life, because it’s your ticket to freedom. Freedom is the fuel for creativity. 


David Lynch
  • Practicing Transcendental Meditation regularly will end your suffering and give you happiness and fulfillment in life. 
  • When feeling overwhelmed or unfocused, sit and desire ideas. 


Nick Szabo
  • Everybody is striving after social proof – from a close friend’s adulation to online likes and upvotes. The less you need positive feedback on your ideas, the more original design regions you can explore, and the more creative and useful to society you will be. But it could be a very long time before people will love you (or even pay you) for it. The more original your ideas, the less your bosses and peers will understand them, and people fear or at best ignore what they do not understand. But, making progress on your own ideas can be very rewarding in itself. 


Jon Call
  • If you can’t laugh at it, you lose. The exceptions to this quote suggest a powerful lesson. You wouldn’t laugh when people die, but that’s because you can’t always win in life. Sometime we do lose! But we better be able to distinguish between real loss and weakness of character. The sooner you can laugh about something, the sooner you can get on with your life. The sooner you can laugh at yourself, the sooner you will really be living life. 
  • When growing my social media, I focused on providing massive value. I curbed my postings to fit what was trending, what was most valuable from the analytics. 
  • To get the most out of stretching, don’t hold stretches for long periods of time, but break the stretching time into sets with rest periods. 
  • Tell your brain “no” when it wants to related to conversation with a “bigger” story. Let the desire go to “one-up” someone’s story with your own. The loss of the opportunity to possibly impress someone is far outweighed by what you learn when you ask more questions. 


Dara Torres
  • “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt


Dan Gable
  • Put a chinning bar up in your house. 
  • Don’t plan on “winning the lottery” right away, because it usually doesn’t happen. Doing a good job and building your assets is winning the lottery, but over time. Work hard every day, make progress every day, and make money every day. 


Caroline Paul
  • I encourage people to look up, make sense of the sky, and along the way experience an existential jolt. This may be ridiculous, but I have this belief that as long as we peer at the night sky, feel small, see the universe and say, “Oh, wow, all that mystery,” then we’ll drop some of our nearsighted hubris. Maybe even save the planet before it’s too late. 


Darren Aronofsky
  • Most of the game is about persistence. When you get an opportunity, you have to perform and you have to exceed beyond all expectations… but getting that chance is the hardest part. Keep the vision clear in your head and every day refuse all obstacles to get to the goal. 


Evan Williams
  • Mindfulness meditation has changed my life more than any other behavior. I feel like it rewired my brain (probably because it did). 
  • Be in a hurry to learn, not in a hurry to get validation. If you resist asking for too much, you will often get more. 


Bram Cohen
  • “Minimum viable product” means forgetting about succeeding massively and instead focusing all your efforts on desperately trying to not fail. 
  • Avoid sugar. All other diet advice is noise. 
  • It’s frustrating how there’s a fad of people mostly falsely thinking they’re gluten sensitive, while lactose intolerance isn’t even brought up. Most of the black and Asian people in the U.S. are lactose intolerant, and they’re served food that they’re incapable of digesting as a central part of every one of their school lunches. 


Chris Anderson
  • Live for something that’s bigger than you are. 
  • The best way to get things done is to let go. It’s often the case that people want to help you or work with you. But they can’t if you insist on holding on to tight control. The more you let go, the more people will surprise you. 
  • Many of us have bought into the cliché “pursue your passion.” For many, that is terrible advice. In your 20s, you may not really know what your best skills and opportunities are. It’s much better to pursue learning, personal discipline, and growth. And to seek out connections with people across the planet. For a while, it’s just fine to follow and support someone else’s dream. In so doing, you will be building valuable relationships, valuable knowledge. And at some point your passion will come and whisper in your ear, “I’m ready.” 


Neil Gaiman
  • If I’m feeling unfocused, I ask myself, “How long has it been since I actually wrote something?” and tell myself, “Stop doing whatever else I am doing because it isn’t actually work, and go write something.”


Michael Gervais
  • Every day is an opportunity to create a living masterpiece. We have far more control in our lives than many embrace. We create or co-create our experiences in life, and each day is a new opportunity to be fully engaged in the present moment. It’s the present moment where glimpses of our potential are revealed and expressed. A living masterpiece is not drawn on a canvas or etched in stone or inked by pen. It’s the pursuit and expression of applied insight and wisdom. 
  • It is through the relationships we have that we are able to experience what is true, beautiful, and good. It is through those relationships that high performance is expressed and our potential, meaning, and purpose are revealed. 


Temple Grandin
  • “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” – Henry Ford


Kelly Slater
  • Think for yourself. Everyone has a unique picture of how things work and function, and yours is as valuable as anyone’s. It’s sometimes the belief in yourself, open-mindedness toward others, and your delivery that allows things to be heard by others. 
  • Invest generously in others. Rewards will come back in unsuspected and abundant ways. 


Katrin Tanja Daviosdottir
  • Believe your best is enough. Your absolute best is the best possible outcome. That is a “win.” To do your best may sound easy, but it is anything but. It requires everything you’ve got… and no less. 


Matthew Fraser
  • I have realized that I value the results of a process more when I truly apply myself and make myself proud. 


Adam Fisher
  • Top down (macro thinking) means I consider the big-picture issues before the small when making decisions, and these big-picture issues dominate my preferences. It does not mean I ignore the small issues, as they are necessary but not dominant. For example, I invest in real estate where smart people want to live. While I could make money in other areas of the country, over the long term, this rule will be quite lucrative. There are other factors, of course, but this one is a requirement. 
  • Practice calendar architecture – designing and implementing a repeatable schedule every day. As an introvert, this requires a lot of alone time, and everyone around me protects this in my day. It is also designed to keep my day from being filled up with “gristle.”


Aisha Tyler
  • Live in a space of bravery in every aspect of your life: creative, professional, familial, and in relationships. Being brave means being present and willing to give of yourself regardless of result. 
  • You cannot do anything great without aggressively courting your own limits and the limits of your ideas. There is nothing more powerful than failure to reveal to you what you are truly capable of. Avoiding the risk of failure means avoiding transcendent creative leaps forward. 
  • Say not to everything that doesn’t energize you personally or creatively. 


Laura R. Walker
  • Get out of your comfort zone when you graduate. Ask yourself what you are genuinely curious about and explore it. Embrace the ambiguity and contradictions that life invariably will bring. Don’t spend time chasing a right answer or a right path, but instead spend time defining how you are going to approach whatever path you choose. What values most define you? What questions do you want to pursue? 


Terry Laughlin
  • Life is not designted to hand us success or satisfaction, but rather to present us with the challenges that make us grow. Mastery is the mysterious process by which those challenges become progressively easier and more satisfying through practice. The key to that satisfaction is to reach the nirvana in which love of practice for its own sake (intrinsic) replaces the original goal (extrinsic) as our grail. 
  • Five steps to mastery:
    • Choose a worthy and meaningful challenge.
    • Seek a sensei to help you establish the right path and priorities.
    • Practice diligently, always striving to hone key skills and to progress incrementally toward new levels of competence.
    • Love the plateau. All worthwhile progress occurs through brief, thrilling leaps forward followed by long stretches of seemingly going nowhere. Learning continues at the cellular level… if you follow good practice principles. 
    • Mastery is a journey, not a destination. There is always more to be learned and greater skill to be developed. 
  • Examine if you are truly driven by an intrinsic motivation or goal? His basic motivations:
    • To continually deepen his understanding of technique and performance. 
    • To have a life-changing positive impact on those he coached
    • To leave an enduring mark on the field, to leave the profession better off than he found it. 


Marc Benioff
  • I look at every failure as a learning experience and try to spend time with my failures. I stew on them for a while until I pick out some nugget from them that I can take forward. 
  • Fast one day per week. 


Marie Forleo
  • If you’re willing to be relentless, stay nimble, and keep taking action, everything is figure-out-able. 
  • Pursue every project, idea, or industry that genuinely lights you up, regardless of how unrelated each idea is, or how unrealistic a long-term career in that field might now seem. You’ll connect the dots later. 
  • Show up in every moment like you’re meant to be there, because your energy precedes anything you could possibly say. 
  • What are the specific business reasons you’re going to commit time, energy, and resources to regularly creating and engaging in that space? 
  • Whenever I feel unfocused or stuck, I do an intense physical workout. The goal is full sensory immersion. 


Drew Houston
  • If I could give my younger self a cheat sheet, I would give him three things: a tennis ball, a circle, and the number 30,000. 
    • Tennis ball: find something you can become obsessed with, like a dog with a ball
    • Circle: you are the average of your five closest friends. 
    • 30,000: people live for about 30,000 days. How many days down are you already? 
  • Think of your time like a jar, your priorities as rocks, and everything else as pebbles or sand. What is the best way to fill your jar? Do your own rocks! 


Scott Belsky
  • Great opportunities never have “great opportunity” in the subject line. What makes an opportunity great is upside. If the potential upside were explicitly clear, the opportunity would have already been taken. 
  • Set up a self-reward system for completing a phase of deep work, like a deep work playlist or special snacks. 
  • Don’t ask customers what they want; figure out what they need. 


Tim McGraw
  • We all should reassess what we think and believe constantly – in politics, in life, and in our thinking. 
  • Focus is the key to everything. 
  • If I had a billboard, it would say “DAD.” Especially as a dad of daughters, how I talk to them and treat them is crucial to how they see themselves. Reminding myself that I’m a dad makes me want to be the best parent I can be for my kids. 


Muneeb Ali
  • Ask yourself this question, “When I’m old, how much would I be willing to pay to travel back in time and relive the moment that I’m experiencing right now?”
  • I can add more value by going deep on a few things rather than engaging with a broad set of activities. 


Craig Newmark
  • Seems like all religions recognize the precept that you should “treat others as you want to be treated.” This simple reminder can help people act in a more benevolent way. 


Steven Pinker
  • “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” – Rabbi Hillel


Gretchen Rubin
  • Have my children read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, and the His Dark Materials books by Philip Pullman


Whitney Cummings
  • Fly high. You can only control your reaction and your contribution – choose the high road. Creatively, “fly high” is a reminder to always strive for an A-plus no matter how tired you are or how late it is. 
  • Writing a daily gratitude list in the morning has atrophied my negative thinking. It’s built up the muscle that focuses on what’s going well and how fortunate I am, which helps me be more productive, creative, and focused. 
  • Don’t network, just work. Just get better, and opportunities will naturally present themselves once you deserve them. 


Rick Rubin
  • You can’t really lose by dedicating yourself to what you love. 
  • Work tirelessly. I feel lucky and blessed in my life, and I know this is because I totally submerged myself in what I was doing. I spent my every waking hour, every day, enjoying it when I was doing it and truly living it. 
  • When you start something new, it’s good to ask a lot of questions from people in the industry and to learn from them. Remember, though, when people give you advice, they’re giving you advice based on their particular skills, experiences, and perspectives; the advice is from their journey, and every journey is different. Ask yourself “does this advice fit me?”


Ryan Shea
  • Three-phase workout.
    • 3-4 sets of bench press, squats, or deadlifts. 6-10 reps of 70-80% of one-rep max. 
    • 3-4 supersets of either
      • 15-20 pull-ups and dips
      • 10 bicep curls and tricep extensions
      • 10 shoulder presses, lateral raises, and front raises
    • Core
      • 4 sets of 1-minute planks alternated with 4 sets of sit-ups and leg raises
      • 1 set each of sit-ups, planks, side planks, and ball knee tucks
  • Instead of New Year Resolution, try a New Month Resolution.
    • April: Daily writing
    • May: No dairy
    • June: Daily meditation
    • July: No news or social media feeds
    • Try either elimination goals or daily behavior goals. 


Ben Silbermann
  • Create a chart of boxes representing every year of your life: ten years across and nine rows down. This puts time in a visual format and you can plot things on it. 
  • A lot of professions assume that you’re going to take eight to ten years just to achieve the minimum level of competence necessary to start to get quality work done. 
  • If regular exercise could be bottled, it would be a miracle drug. Everything in your life gets better if you find time to exercise regularly. 
  • The most important stuff in life has to be parallel-processed, like your relationships and your health, because you can’t make up the time by doing more of it later. Figure out a system so the stuff you need to do all the time happens, even while you might be placing disproportionate focus on one thing. 
  • If you have a habit of writing things down you’re grateful for, then your brain is constantly looking for those things, and you feel happier. It’s absurd in its simplicity. 


Vlad Zamfir
  • No one is qualified to tell you how you experience the world. 
  • I often decide to do something, or a while pile of somethings, then beat myself up for not doing it. It turns out that I often beat myself up to the point of depression for not doing it. I get depressed because I’m not doing what I think I should be doing. I’ve learned that it can really help to temporarily give up on everything. After giving up on everything, I am immediately relieved of depression. Sometimes this relief is all I need to start working again. Sometimes it isn’t, and I need to spend time doing other things before I’m ready. Often, I end up realizing my “somethings” aren’t important and I forget about them forever. 


Zooko Wilcox
  • (On telling people “no”) The realization that helped me was that the kindest and best thing that I can do for people when I get unsolicited requests is to give them a “no” explicitly, quickly, and firmly. 


Stephanie McMahon
  • “Do something you’re afraid of every day.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
  • At the first sign of thirst, don’t sip water. CHUG WATER.
  • Before bed, think of three things that made me happy during the day. It’s better than being grateful, because I would feel guilty if I didn’t say certain things I was grateful for, and I wound up saying the same things over and over. Focusing on happiness helps me put aside the day’s baggage and focus on what’s really important. 


Peter Attia
  • “For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – John F. Kennedy
  • If you set a goal, it should meet these two conditions: 1) It matters; 2) You can influence the outcome.
  • Don’t give in to the sunk cost fallacy. “You’ve spent X years learning Y, you can’t just up and leave now and do Z.” This is flawed advice because it weighs too heavily the time behind you, which can’t be changed, and largely discounts the time in front of you, which is completely malleable. 


Steve Aoki
  • Instead of following the trends, you want to identify them but not follow them. Focus on the energy of what you do. 
  • Music is our tool to engage with our feelings. 


Jim Loehr
  • “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children… to leave the world a bit better… to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The daily ritual of self-reflected writing has produced priceless personal insights in my life.
  • Anything quantified and tracked on a regular basis will invariably show improvement. 
  • Protection from stress serves only to erode my capacity to handle it. Stress exposure is the stimulus for all growth, and growth actually occurs during episodes of recovery. Avoiding stress will never provide the capacity that life demands. 


Daniel Negreanu
  • This exercise helps me to get present to the reality of a situation where I’m feeling unfocused or overwhelmed. I tell my story to myself from the perspective of a victim, then I tell the exact same story from a place of 100 percent responsibility. Victim: “I was late to an important event because my girlfriend took too long to get ready. It’s not my fault.” Responsible: “I acknowledge my breakdown in being late. In the future I am committed to making sure that I do everything I can to ensure that I’m on time.” 


Jocko Willink
  • Discipline equals freedom. 
  • Set up a home gym in the garage. It’s one of the most important factors to allow one to work out every day regardless of the chaos and mayhem life delivers. 
  • Work harder than everyone else. Outwork them all. 
  • Prioritize and execute. Pick the biggest issue in front of you with the biggest positive impact and execute on that. 
  • Read and write every day. Free your mind. 


Robert Rodriguez
  • When trying to do focused work, use two notepads (or two columns on one notepad): Tasks and Distractions. Write down a few tasks, then start doing the most important, major, even undesirable one. Set a timer for 20 minutes. While doing, if stray thoughts, distractions, or impulses come up, write them down on the Distractions pad. Do not do anything else but the major task until the timer goes off. 
  • Fácil! It’s a Spanish word meaning “easy” or “no big deal!” I like the idea of setting impossible challenges and, with one word, making it sound doable, because then it suddenly is. It’s a reminder that anything can be done, with relative ease and less stress, if you have the right mindset. 


Kristen Ulmer
  • When not in crisis, I consider “my life is great” as a cop-out, a stuck place, where learning is no longer available to us. Which is why you shouldn’t wait for crisis to happen before you take steps to go beyond what you’re capable of seeing on your own. Go to marriage counseling when your marriage is going great. Hire a fitness coach when you’re already in the best shape of your life. Bring in a marketing expert when your marketing department is already kicking ass. And watch next-level magic happen. 
  • Instead of a gratitude practice, try a fear practice. Fear is a sense of discomfort in our bodies, not our minds. Locate the feeling in your body, then following these three steps: 1. Affirm it’s natural to feel this discomfort. 2. Be curious about your current relationship with the discomfort. 3. Feel the feeling by spending time with it, like you would with your dog or friend. Turn toward discomfort and have an honest relationship with it. 


Yuval Noah Harari
  • When writing, publishing, and trying to sell a book, the DIY method just doesn’t work. Instead of looking for shortcuts, do it the hard and long way and rely on professional help. 
  • Nobody really knows what the world and the job market will look like in 2040, hence nobody knows what to teach young people today. Traditionally, life has been divided into two main parts: a period of learning followed by a period of working. By 2040, this traditional model will become obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives and to reinvent themselves again and again. 
  • Don’t trust technology too much. Make the tech serve you, instead of you serving it. 



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