Once a month (or so), I share a dozen things that have inspired me to greater personal, professional, and financial success in my life. I hope they bring similar success to your life.
1. Marcus Aurelius and the power of your mind
“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius
I touched on Marcus Aurelius earlier this week during my article about the value of stoicism in personal finance, but I really wanted to highlight this quote because it sums up very quickly what I find valuable about stoicism.
The truth is that most of the challenges in our lives are made drastically harder or drastically easier just because of the way we think about it. Do we react with fear? Do we decide that something is just too difficult? Do we get distracted by the shiny new thing (whatever that happens to be)?
The real power you have in this world exists inside your head. It’s your capacity to control fear, to control your likes and dislikes, to give yourself courage. You make the decision as to whether to have fortitude, to stand up to challenges, to have a strong work ethic. Those things are your choices, no one else’s. Your success in life has a lot to do with what you choose regarding those things.
2. Neil Pasricha on “the three A’s of awesome”
So, what are these three As?
Attitude is simply your way of thinking about or behaving toward something. You control your attitude in that you choose how to think about and how to behave toward things in your life – people, places, activities, and so on. A positive attitude is one that acts positively toward the people and things around them and generally makes a person feel better about life and engages the people around them.
Awareness is your knowledge and perception of the world around you. It’s all about paying attention to what’s happening in the moment and devoting yourself to learning about the world.
Authenticity is revealing your true self to the world rather than covering it up. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and to be different from the crowd in some ways.
When you combine those three things, you end up with a mix of traits that people want to be around.
This really is a great talk, well worth listening to on your drive to work. It gears you up to take care of life’s challenges.
3. Paulo Coelho on today
“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” – Paulo Coelho
I live by this every day. A day does not feel joyful or complete if I’m not doing things that are truly in line with what I want to be doing in life – writing, learning, building relationships.
I don’t like to ever end a day without doing something that feels meaningful in my life, whether it’s a chunk of genuine quality time with my children or pushing my brain to learn something new or doing something I’ve never tried before.
The only problem is that my list of “things I’ve always wanted to do” is longer than I’ll have the time to achieve in my lifetime.
4. Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen
In this video, director Baz Luhrmann takes the words of a column of great life advice by Mary Schmich, a columnist with the Chicago Tribune, and puts it over a gentle musical beat, saying the words rhythmically and pairing them with colorful imagery.
Here’s a major excerpt that column:
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.
Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.
Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.
Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.
Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.
Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.
Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.
Great stuff, from beginning to end.
5. Charles Eisenstein on broken lives
“We are so broken that we dare not remember that it isn’t supposed to be this way.” – Charles Eisenstein
A friend of mine uses this as a signature on her emails. Maybe it’s a little melodramatic, but it does make a point.
Who among us hasn’t dreamed of a very different life? Why do medieval-themed fantasies like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones have such popularity? They’re all about escaping from the constraints of our modern lives.
Many, many aspects of our modern lives make it more convenient and easy to live a modern life, but quite often, that modern life is dissatisfying and those conveniences feel like shackles.
What’s the solution? There isn’t an easy one, unfortunately. Just remember that when life feels constrained, there’s often a good reason for each and every constraint.
6. Dan Pink on the surprising truth about what motivates us
The book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is a really good read, one that contains a great deal of insight into why we do the things we do and what moves us to excel at some things and … not excel at others. Pink points out three main factors:
Autonomy is the freedom to make choices about how one spends their time and energy. The more restrictions that a person has on their ability to make their own choices about time and energy use, the less motivated they’re going to be to do their best.
Mastery is the skill strength that underlies the tasks that we have to do each day and whether the task at hand matches that skill strength. People that are given tasks that are far below their skill strength get bored, while people that are given tasks far above their skill strength get overwhelmed. The best place to ignite someone’s drive is right at their skill strength or slightly above it.
Purpose is whether or not the person believes in the virtue of the work being done. Is this work worthwhile, or is it just busywork? Purposeful work almost always engages people far better than busywork.
Part of what I love most about self-employment is that I have great autonomy and can use that autonomy to find work that challenges my mastery and has purpose. This makes me very, very happy with my work most of the time.
7. David Starr Jordan on wisdom, skill, and virtue
“Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it.” ― David Starr Jordan
I think these three attributes – wisdom, skill, and virtue – point a person toward success in virtually anything he or she might tackle, and it’s stated really wonderfully here.
I can feel these three attributes tugging at me whenever I am working on a project and aiming for great results.
What do I do next? That’s all about planning and having an organized list of tasks to take care of. Whenever I use tools for maintaining my tasks and organizing my things to get done and I actively use those tools, I tend to do much better work.
How do I do this? That’s about building skills you can rely on to take on more and more challenging tasks. Whenever I think about how to organize an article or how to write a good article in a very limited time space, I’m using my skill.
Am I actually doing it? All of the planning and skill in the world rots on the vine if you’re not actually following through and getting stuff done.
Wisdom. Skill. Virtue. Those are three pillars upon which success rests.
8. Albert Einstein on reading and thinking
“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” – Albert Einstein
I’ve been a voracious reader all of my life, devouring somewhere between one to two books a week since I was in upper elementary school. One would think that I would shake my head and disagree with Einstein’s quote… but the truth is that I actually agree with this.
Getting lost in a book is a wonderful experience, but taking what you learned from the book and using it somewhere in the world is even more amazing. It shows that reading that book and thinking about what it offers between the covers is about far more than just entertainment. It’s about changing your life.
I can list hundreds of books that have changed the way I thought and behaved. Those are the books that have mattered and have stuck with me, not the books that were good just as a page turner or just as a brief exposure to an idea.
A good book changes you. It forces you to think differently, to exercise your brain. Without that… books kind of lose their magic for me.
9. The Public Domain Full Movies Youtube channel
This is a pretty healthy collection of movies that, for various reasons, have fallen into the public domain, which means that they can be viewed for free (and edited for free) without any concern about copyright or anything else. A few of my favorites:
Captain Kidd, a pirate movie from the mid-1940s:
Scarlet Street, a great forgotten noir film from the same timeframe starring Edward G. Robinson:
And, most of all, one of my five favorite black-and-white movies of all time, My Man Godfrey, a comedy-drama about the Great Depression, starring William Powell and Carole Lombard:
The channel is just loaded with all kinds of interesting and strange things and it’s well worth a browse.
10. Rufus Griscom on status symbols
“People are irrationally attracted to that which is scarce, because scarce things function as status symbols. If you understand the elements of human behavior that are irrational and predictable, you are freed from them and can benefit from the insight.” – Rufus Griscom
People wear gold bands and diamonds because they’re scarce, not because of something exceptional about them. People drive exotic cars and wear expensive clothes because they’re scarce, not because they’re of exceptional quality.
The thing is, much of the time scarcity really doesn’t hold any real practical value. It’s just different, and different doesn’t inherently mean better.
Don’t throw your financial future or your life’s future away chasing something merely because it’s scarce.
11. The Present
From the description:
After a very successful festival circuit, running on over 180 film festivals and winning more than 50 awards, we’ve decided that it’s finally time to share “The Present” with the rest of the world. “The Present” is a thesis short from the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg in Ludwigsburg, Germany.
In summary, the student who created this film, Jacob Frey, did it as his thesis project and, needless to say, he utterly knocked it out of the park. Not surprisingly, he was hired almost immediately by Disney and now works for them as an animator and I’ve got to believe he’s got a long, bright future ahead of him in that field.
This is well, well worth your three minutes of time to watch.
12. Dale Carnegie on fear and inaction
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” -Dale Carnegie
Whenever we’re faced with a challenge, we have a choice. We can choose to take the bull by the horns and dive into that challenge… or we can wait.
Waiting might be useful in some situations to find out more information or look for a better opportunity or to talk yourself out of a potentially horrible choice, but at the same time, waiting has a big drawback. Once you put something back on the table, it becomes much more likely that you’ll never pick it up again.
Unless there’s a good reason not to do it – and your own baseless fears are not a good reason – then just do it. Take on that challenge, whatever it might be.