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The 11 Maxims You Should Live By

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maxims What is a maxim, you ask?

Simple. It’s a rule for you to live by.

Why do you need maxims?

Simple. Without them you live a weak and undisciplined life, lacking in consistency.

A life not governed by any maxim is a deeply unconscious life that will lead…nowhere.

Below are 11 maxims that will help guide your actions towards a more successful life.

#1 Absorb what is useful; Disregard that which is useless

The first time I ever encountered a maxim was when I started practicing Jeet Kune Do at age 14. At the end of each practice we would recite a bunch of maxims. Out of all the maxims I heard, this was the only one that I truly “absorbed”.

How appropriate.

Jeet Kune Do is actually founded on this very maxim. JDK is the father of modern MMA. Bruce Lee created it by taking all the best stuff from all other martial arts, mixing it together, and creating his own one. All the traditional martial artists got angry at him for doing it. But no one remembers any of their names, while Bruce Lee’s will forever be known as a famous pioneer.

This maxim has impacted my life in a big way ever since. I am a “thief” — and I’m proud of it. I steal ideas from the most brilliant minds. You should do the same.

#2 Your brain is constantly being rewired

And it’s all on you to make sure that it’s being wired optimally. Any time you’re having a negative thought, that’s another repetition given to a corresponding neural pathway. This makes it stronger, and more likely for you to think negatively again.

Is that really what you want?

To consistently have negative thoughts is an indicator of ignorance. A highly conscious person would never hurt himself on purpose by lowering the quality of his most important tool — the brain.

By reminding myself of this maxim, I have eliminated almost all negative thinking. While I might not always be delusionarily positive, I am never negative. I am at worst neutral.

#3 Time is short, you will die soon

This is fact.

At first it’s a scary thing to think about. Then it becomes very liberating.

Death is the ultimate liberator. It’s impossible to say anything about death other than that it happens — without fail.

Death is the ultimate liberator. Life is potentially scary.

#4 Your life is the sum of the narratives you tell yourselfmaxims2

All personal experience is subjective. “Reality” cannot be proven to objectively exist. You can hang out with a friend and look at a rock and both of you can agree that you’re seeing a rock. But that’s not real reality. That’s consensus reality.

The takeaway is this: your life is perceived to be whatever you want it to be — no exceptions. You have a certain amount of control (no one knows how much) over the subjective experience known as your life.

Every event merely is. It’s your responsibility to interpret it in an empowering manner. Crude example: if you’re sad about your grandma dying — that’s your narrative making it seem negative.

All is but opinion.

Your internal dialogue, and how you interpret the things that happen to you,  are completely up to you to mentally manipulate in your favor any way you can. Much of Stoicism is devoted to this pursuit.

You can either choose to listen to a disempowering narrative, or you choose to listen to a narrative where you are the champion.

But what if others disagree?

Well, who are others to decide what is real or not?

What authority do they have behind their claims?

No one has a claim on your reality, except you.

Choose an epic narrative.

Choose to have an inner monologue that  is delusionally positive and constantly pumps you up.

#5 This too shall pass

Heraclitus, the philosopher, said that change is the only constant. He was right.

Remind yourself of this anytime you’re suffering, complaining, or struggling with the present situation.

#6 Life is about making choices

Time is the most valuable resource. At second place comes willpower.

Napoleon Bonaparte said:

Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious than being able to decide…

And it’s true. Willpower, as ascribed to your prefrontal cortex, is the “finite” resource  being used to make a decision.

As Napoleon famously asserted, most people don’t like making decisions, and never make an effort to practice their willpower. They are also in the habit of spending it on all the wrong things.

They waste their second most important resource on deciding which TV show to watch. But they don’t use it to build a business, build a body, or educate themselves.

#7 There is a “law” of compounding: Follow it

Just as there is power in compound interest, there is also power in compound experience. It’s not an exact law though, because there’s a difference between compound interest (money) and that of compound experience.

The difference is that it takes forever for compound interest to start producing financial results for the normal person… Let’s say you save $500 on a monthly basis — which you absolutely can if you’re frugal — and invest it in the stock market or a savings account. Your investment then appreciates by 5 % on a yearly basis. If you keep this up for 20 years you’ll end up with $207,729.47.

[Note: You can check this out yourself to make it more concrete…]

And while that sounds like nice chunk of cash, it’s not really as great as it sounds…. Because you’re  probably not taking into account that:

1. You’re locking in this capital for 20 damn years (!), and in doing so probably missing a bunch of better investment opportunities.

2. In 20 years from now, your hefty sum of $207,729.47  won’t have the same purchasing power as it does today. Given how much money is being printed nowadays, it’s hard to know how much that amount of money will be worth in the future.

3. The stock market, or your savings account, could potentially crash at any time. Like when Lehman Brothers collapsed and initiated the financial crisis of 2008. If that happens, you’ll be set back a long way, maybe minus 30-100%. If that happens, all your previously  compounded interest goes out the window.

So, compound interest is awesome in theory. But not always awesome in practice. At least not if you’re an average Joe starting from scratch hoping to get rich from it in 20+ years.

–Experience, however, is safer. It is fully subject to the “law” of compounding:

1. You will learn more, and quicker, if you know a ton of stuff. This is because learning happens mainly by creating associations between memories. If you already have a ton of associations that relate to something, you’ll memorize it almost instantly.

2. If you already have a lot of experience in an area, your brain is primed to see patterns that others cannot see. If you’ve got a lot of experience with business you can see potential business opportunities more easily. If you’re good at picking up girls you can see opportunities for doing that where others don’t. If you’re good at fighting you can easily find openings to strike your opponent.

3. The more you know, the more often you get “inspired”. Einstein said that:

A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way, but intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.

And while his words don’t provide any definitive proof, this has definitely been the case for me over the past 3 years.

The more things you learn, the more easily you’ll get flashes of insight. This is a direct result of your brain finding a “fit” between a bunch of already existing associations. Your subconscious is always at work, trying to fit together different pieces of information to see how they mesh with each other.

Given this “law” of compound experience, it becomes important to learn as many things as possible early in life.

#8 A consistent process produces success

The process is the cause behind the effect. All positive results stem from an intelligently created process put to work consistently over a long period of time.

Michael Jordan didn’t become a legendary basket ball player overnight. He did it by putting in thousands of hours practicing day in an day out, while fine-tuning his framework for learning.

The same can be said of just about any successful person. They’re successful because they’ve created a daily routine that fit their desired outcome, and stuck to it consistently while eliminating what doesn’t work, and doing more of what works well.

My physique was at best slightly above average 3 years ago. Now it’s elite. How did that happen?

Ain’t nothing to it but hardcore consistency in diet, sleep, and an efficient pre-workout ritual that pumps me up to lift heavy-ass weights.

#9 Do today what others won’t do so that tomorrow you can do what others cannot.

Plain and simple: put in the work now and during the foreseeable future, and reap the rewards of it later. While others were sleeping, you were hustling. Now who’s lucky?

Not you. You made the conscious decision to live like no one else would. You took the path least traveled. You stuck to the process.

The hard life is tough…But only for a while. Then it pays off big.

The easy life isn’t challenging at all, and that’s why it pays off in direct proportion to that — not at all.

#10 Rise to the work of man

This is an abbreviation of a quote from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations Use it to remind yourself that you’re not supposed to snooze, sleep in, or be lazy. Nature has fixed a certain amount of sleep for you, don’t overextend it.

Bees, horses, and insects fulfill their purpose in nature without effort. Humans are confused: What is my purpose?

I don’t know… But I do know the following: your purpose is not found or fulfilled lying in your bed, sleeping away the day.

#11…

Ok, so I lied. There is no eleventh maxim.

But check out the comment section for many more maxims.


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Comments

  1. #1 – Absorb what is useful; Disregard that which is useless:
    Good point. One thing I noticed about this is how it can greatly reduce potential cognitive dissonance.

    When people buy in to a certain system of beliefs and values — like a specific religion, diet or training regimen — it is because they want to provide structure to their lives. Structure in itself can be a good thing, but what happens when there is interference — for example if milk proves to be beneficial to you even if you want to go full paleo? Cognitive dissonance occurs.

    This is why I try to never put a label on any type of “system” I adhere to. If I encounter a belief that stands in contrast to my current view of the world, I try not to rationalize it away or just ignore it, but rather let it “float” in the periphery of my mind, so that I can use its concept whenever useful. By doing this, there is no need for cognitive dissonance. I have nothing to defend and nothing to prove.

    #2 – Your brain is constantly being rewired:
    I’m keeping this in mind almost all the time. It’s important to apply the “rewiring” even in small things, like choosing the stairs instead of the elevator — not just in doing “important stuff”.

    #3 – Time is short, you will die soon:
    Yes. Important point.

    #4 – Your life is the sum of the narratives you tell yourself:
    Yep. I sometimes catch myself feeling sorry for myself and making up stories that are not necessarily true. Metacognition is a powerful tool to prevent this. Did you read my post on metacognition? I’d love to hear some critique on it, if/when you’ve got the time :D

    #5 – This too shall pass:
    And it will pass faster if you TAKE ACTION!

    #6 – On making choices:
    This one’s quite interesting. In learning to make (good) choices, I do believe there a steep learning curve for the inexperienced (like me). It’s kind of like this: either you make less and less choices and become better at it, or you make more and more choices and become better at it. The first one is unfortunately the norm; to slouch in the sofa and let coincidences make your choices. The second one is less chosen (haha) because as you make a first choice in any given area, you are faced with many more choices, leading to MANY, MANY more choices you have to make — which becomes really hard when you’re not used to making a decision. However, the trade-off is that you are presented to lots of opportunities as well.

    #7 There is a “law” of compounding: Follow it:
    This is why I won’t trust “pension money” to take care of me when I get old. You’ll just save a lot, miss out on a lot, and then not have so much left anyway.

    #8 A consistent process produces success:
    Slow and steady wins the race. Way too many people forget this, me included sometimes.

    #9 Do today what other’s won’t do so that tomorrow you can do what others cannot:
    I remember Tyler from RSD talking about this in his “The Truth About Success” series. He basically hustled his entire 20’s, working his ass off, and now he’s 35 and can “relax a little”. Have you seen (any parts of) the series?

    #10 Rise to the work of man:
    Very good point. Gonna start listening to the audiobook of Meditations.

    ———————-
    Cheers ;)

    • I have the same opinion(s). Fun to see that there are others who think in similar terms.
      Cool site Alexander

    • Hey Alex!

      Read your post & commented on it.

      I have not seen those videos of Tyler from RSD on success.

      “When people buy in to a certain system of beliefs and values — like a specific religion, diet or training regimen — it is because they want to provide structure to their lives.”

      — Definitely. I am constantly surprised by how much people buy into systems. For example, I recently hung out with a dude who’s like 30, massively successful (millionaire + entrepreneur)… And he’s completely bought into weird conspiracy theories (the sort you see on youtube). Super smart guy except for that.

      • Ludvig,

        I’ve answered. Thanks!

        Those videos are long (1-2 hours each, and there are four of them) but very insightful (and entertaining as hell). However, I bet you don’t have too much to gain from them except for a reinforcement of some beliefs, perhaps.

        Haha, that’s funny. Well, everyone has their own little quirks, no matter how smart or successful :D

    • “When people buy in to a certain system of beliefs and values…” This is one of the common logical fallacies. Most people like to let others do their thinking for them, and they get their ideas as package deals based on their trust of the source. If, for example, they have read a little Marx and found him inspiring, they may accept uncritically anything else of Marx’s they read.

      This is basically a child’s approach to knowledge and belief. Bombarded with vast amounts of conflicting information and no basis for discernment, the child resorts to simplifying heuristics: Mommy is right, teacher is right, adults are more believable than children, a group is more believable than one person, written things are more believable than spoken things, etc. This allows the child to adopt functional beliefs instead of being paralyzed by the fact that he’s surrounded by falsehood with no way of identifying the truth. If the boy next door wants to play in the street but Mommy says it’s bad, Mommy is likely to prevail. Little Johnny doesn’t need to read a doctoral thesis on pedestrian fatality rates to make the right decision.

      Unfortunately most people continue this heuristic throughout life. They assimilate the views of their parents, their teachers, their religion, a political party, the media, a favorite writer, etc. wholesale. If these contradict each other, the person follows some other heuristic (like “first come, first believed”) and doesn’t question the other parts of that package. Thus for instance even the adult is utterly convinced that teachers are terribly underpaid, because he heard it for many years as a child from his teachers – and his parents never contradicted it. It never occurs to the vast majority to wonder where they got this idea, or to consider that the source was not exactly impartial. It has become foundational truth because it was packaged along with basic literacy and arithmetic.

      The key component to useful intelligence is not “IQ” or education. It is the ability to break down heuristics like this one.

      • “This is one of the common logical fallacies. Most people…”

        Very insightful and valuable thoughts; thank you for sharing them. It’s almost frightening to see how people are ruled by such heuristics. Also, thank you for teaching me a new word (heuristic).

      • Very well written, Abgrund.

        “Most people like to let others do their thinking for them, and they get their ideas as package deals based on their trust of the source. If, for example, they have read a little Marx and found him inspiring, they may accept uncritically anything else of Marx’s they read.”

        — And this is manipulated by smart politicians and Internet marketers. Throw in the package deal whenever possible. Put a lot of good things in the contact, and sneak in some bullshit you don’t want in fine print.

        “The key component to useful intelligence is not “IQ” or education. It is the ability to break down heuristics like this one.”

        — I agree. That’s what ‘thinking accurately’ means to me. To deliberately set out to identify heuristics and cognitive biases, anticipate how they’ll mess up your thinking, and take protective measures.

    • Good point about #6: decision making is a learned skill. Making the /right/ decision is of course a product of many skills, but being able to make a timely commitment to a definite course of action is itself a skill that can (and should) be learned.

  2. Good post, and particularly love the concept of Compound Experience. There’s probably a book in there somewhere….

    I offer someone else’s maxims (Terry Smith, head of Fundsmith) on investing:
    1. Only buy quality companies (maximum of 20, long trading history, mature industries)
    2. Try not to overpay
    3. Do nothing

    In direct contrast to most endeavours, its the last maxim: once you have a stake in a good company, do nothing, which is the hardest one to live by.

  3. I like number 9. It reminds me of a quote from legendary guitar virtuoso, Steve Vai. It went something like this; ‘When I was a teenager, I stayed in practicing whilst my friends were getting blowjobs. Now I’m a famous guitarist, I get all the blowjobs’,

    As for my maxim – I don’t get too upset when something bad happens because I know it will pass. I also don’t get too carried away with happiness because it too, will pass. The trick for me is to embrace and accept. Life is more enjoyable this way.

  4. You’re a hustler, I’m sure. Love the Einstein quote. We are but our experiences in life put together. And lying is not your eleventh maxim right? :)

  5. I guess one of my maxims would be: dont heed the majority opinion too much, both in society in general and my social circles. At best it makes you biased, at worst it forces a delusion onto you.

    Some great rules to live by here Ludvig. In particular I think 1, 4, 8 and 9 are absolutely vital. If it’s even possible to differentiate at this point.

    Btw, that email is coming your way soon.

    • Ragnar,
      “dont heed the majority opinion too much”

      — SO true. I even wrote an article about it the other week. As soon as you hear that “everybody’s doing it”, your best bet is to RUN.

      Cool. I look forward to it.

    • How about “Don’t heed the majority opinion at all,” unless it’s a totally insignificant matter.

  6. Dan Black says:

    Powerful post my friend! I’ve learned everyone influence, either positive or negative, with those around them. It’s essential to act and think in a way that allows us to positively impact those around us. Great post!

  7. sebastian says:

    I like #3 my friend! Remembering that you’re going to die is a powerful tool.

    Whenever I have to make a big decision, I try to remember that my time is limited. It tunes out all nonsense and points out the important.

    It safed me already from doing lot of unimportant nonsense.

  8. “Nature knowns no names” – I love this because it helps me stay calm in the face of horrible, tragic shit, and I remember nature isn’t personal, and the bad things that happen in life aren’t some god spiting me or my loves ones, its just nature. Accept and embrace the flow.

  9. “Change what you can change in your life, arrange yourself with things you cannot change and learn to recognise the difference between those two things”.

    That maxime (I think some German poet came up with it) always reminds me to not be negative about things I cannot change. For example, last week, I lost two tickets for a concert (I had to buy new ones) and my car had a defect. Anyway, I try not to be annoyed about these things as I cannot change them.

    On the other hand, if you can change something you want to: You should go for it!

    • Good quote, Michael.

      I had a similar bullshit event happen to me yesterday. I’d walked a long way to pay for some items, then when I was just at the register, I realized I’d forgot my wallet. Argh. Whatever…

      Lesson: Check small things, like having keys and wallet on you before leaving home.

  10. “What the mind can conceive and believe it can also achieve”.

    Can’t believe Iam the first to comment on it :p it is from Napoleon Hill. Really powerful

  11. I just wanted to thank you for making your website and book. Your knowledge has played a role in most of the success I’ve experienced over the last two months

  12. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this brilliant blog!
    I guess for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to brand new updates and will talk about this website with my Facebook group.
    Chat soon!

  13. Great list of maxims, Ludvig. Number 9 is my favourite and describes a little bit about my life.

    While I’m reading books trying to improve myself, others are playing ping-pong until late night and wake up late the next day. It’s not easy to make myself focus on doing things that are beneficial and meaningful but I know it’s worth it for my future self.

  14. You talk about the importance of learning as much as possible ASAP in life. But, don’t you think this could easily just be an excuse for sitting around reading things and watching YT tutorials all day long? And end up not doing anything, kind of like you described in your article about talking about goals and losing the motivation. What do you think?

    • Abgrund says:

      Why in hell would you watch a tutorial unless you needed it to perform a task? Just watching random tutorials is retarded, you’ll never remember any of them. When you have spare time for acquiring knowledge, build foundations, don’t chase applications. In other words, instead of watching some video about how to frame in a window, read a book on carpentry.

      Video is very inferior to print for foundational knowledge – the information density is like vacuum compared to lead. Video is useful mainly for highly specific tasks, and even then, print with illustrations is usually better. A free written guide with good pictures may be a lot harder to find than a youtube video, though.

    • Hey Milky,

      Yeah, why watch a tutorial for something you won’t use?

      I see your point though… For a lot of people it’s easy to just get in the habit of consuming information — without putting it to action. That’s definitely a problem. And it’s not what I’m trying to preach here.

  15. Heathenwinds says:

    Thank you so much for posting this Ludvig.

    One thing that jumped out at me is the inner monologue part. I’ve always known that being positive is good, but I’ve always been missing out on the “delusionally” part. Tomorrow will probably be the first day that I’m unable to walk because of a workout. I look forward to it.

  16. “Any time you’re having a negative thought, that’s another repetition given to a corresponding neural pathway. This makes it stronger, and more likely for you to think negatively again.”

    Oh yea, that makes me real paranoid. This is why I’m so scared of you know, going against everything we always talk about.

    Keep the eye on the ball.

  17. Michal says:

    My maxim is the mix of #7,8,9 and 10 of yours: “Every sustained action brings the results.”
    When You don’t believe, but KNOW it, it’s hard to stop working. The bost motivator in the world.

    BTW, I’ve just started a new book about a personal philosophy. I intend to include a few dozen of such maxims, I’ll use some of yours for sure.

  18. Abgrund says:

    Abgrund’s Ten Commaxims:

    1. *Do it yourself.* Don’t rely on other people to do things for you if you can help it. When you do things yourself, you not only save money and avoid dependence; you learn skills and build confidence. People tell me all the time, “I wish I knew how to do that,” or they ask, “how did you learn about that?” I learned things the hard way, by seeking out experts and asking them questions, by searching out books and reading them, and above all by trying things over and over until I got them right. These days any chump can learn a million tasks with very little effort from youtube and google. When some dumbass asks me “where did you learn that?” I feel like busting him in the mouth, but usually I just shrug.

    2. *Never let a woman cloud your judgment.* Women are creatures of emotion, not reason, and they mostly have their own interests at heart, not yours. They are however good at manipulating men to get what they (women) think they want. Always keep a clear mind and ignore the wishes and opinions of women. Most women have poor judgment in their own lives, why would you let them make choices about yours? Above all, don’t get into a one-sided commitment where you can only lose; i.e. /do not marry/. In general, don’t let other people cloud your judgment, not even if they represent 90% of your friends or 90% of society. Half of them are women and the rest are idiots. “Hell is other people” (Sartre). Ignore them.

    3. *Anything worth doing is difficult.* Ordinary people follow the path of least effort. If something is easy to do, there will always be a surplus of people doing it, hence no demand for it. Only those who accomplish difficult things can rise above the ordinary. Paltry deeds will not earn the respect of others or build self-confidence. Meeting real challenges will do both. Concomitantly, anything worth doing is worth doing right. A half-assed effort is worse than none at all.

    4. *Feelings are never a substitute for knowledge.* Have you ever met an idiot who said utterly stupid things about something they knew nothing of? Of course you have. Chances are you *are* that idiot, on some subjects. People make all kinds of bad decisions, and say all kinds of retarded things, based on strong opinions that have never seen the light of reason. If you believe something, you had better know /why/ you believe it, or keep it out of your decision process and Shut the Fuck Up about it.

    5. *Don’t be a flake.* Practice what you preach, honor your word, stick to your commitments, say what you mean. Judge yourself as you judge others; don’t do things you would call someone else an asshole for doing. Follow consistent principles, be the same person, in every part of life. Those principles need not be endorsed by society, but they should be discernible and constant. No one respects a two-faced, erratic, unreliable, backstabbing hypocrite – least of all himself.

    6. *Accept help gracefully.* This includes help that you don’t need and crappy advice that you won’t follow. If you have to go to someone for help or advice, show them appropriate gratitude, don’t be a mooch. If people offer to help you on their own initiative, they may think you owe them something. Don’t let them manipulate you but if possible make them feel appreciated, even if their “help” was a burden. When feasible, say, “Yes, thank you,” rather than, “No, thank you.” Use the Benjamin Franklin Effect.

    7. *Keep your eye on the ball.* This applies on every scale, from a single conversation to a life-long ambition. Know the *one* main thing that you are trying to achieve and concentrate your effort toward that goal. Don’t shift your focus without a reason, don’t get diverted to minor or unclear goals, avoid letting your time get siphoned off into purposeless activities. There are always plenty of distractions: some are accidents of life, some come from the deliberate interference of other people, some come from your own subconscious, some come from the temptation to pursue other opportunities because the grass always looks greener somewhere else. By keeping your main goal in mind, you can recognize and resist all such distractions.

    8. *Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.* Notwithstanding #7, there are times when you need to abandon a particular goal or a particular path. Maybe your original object turns out to be impossible, or not as desirable as you had thought, or is no longer relevant, or you’ve found a better opportunity. Any decision to abandon a goal should be based on fact and reason, not emotion or impulse, and you should know what else you are going to pursue instead. The worst thing you can do is to vacillate between alternatives; when you do change course, make it stick. Don’t get caught drunk-dialing your ex, or begging for your old job back.

    9. *Fear is for other people.* Examine the cause of your fear, and measure it against fact and reason. Most often, fear is irrational: confront it and defy it, make your decision only when your fear has lost its power. Never let fear dictate your actions – fear is the mindkiller, the little death that brings total obliteration.

    10. *Shut the fuck up.* I know a few of you have heard me say (or, have read me write?) this before. There are infinite situations in life where (as any lawyer will tell you) the worst thing to do is to open your goddam mouth. Words are like bullets, you can’t take them back. Before you say anything, before you pull that trigger, you should take aim – you should always know *why* you are talking. There is rarely any valid reason for bragging, or for insults, or for spreading gossip. The best time to Shut the Fuck Up is when you feel pressure to speak but aren’t sure what you should say. Then you are likely to babble like a jackass. You can use this against other people, too – if you want to know what someone else is hiding, put them on the spot and then Shut the Fuck Up. 90% of the time they will spill their beans. To be silent is golden.

    May life grant me…
    Serenity to accept the consequences of my choices,
    Courage to ignore what other people think,
    and Wisdom to Shut the Fuck Up.

    • Lurker says:

      Fuckin’ A.

      My maxim, stolen from Viktor Frankl: Live as if you were living for the second time, and has acted wrongly the first time.

      Ludvig where is this weeks post??

    • I’m not Christian, but Amen to that… There go my next 10 articles down the drain.

      On #1 (Do it yourself):
      –This is something I think some people take too far — me included. At such points it gets important to ask yourself if you’re really getting a high ROI by spending your time doing the thing yourself. Or if you should perhaps outsource, ask a friend, or delegate it to someone else.

      This is also something of a philosophical question. Buckminster Fuller referred to it as “being comprehensivist vs being a specialist”. What is more productive? What gives more happiness? This applies not only to yourself, but also to companies, and society as a whole. I think it could interest you to read some of it if you find the time.

      Nice on #6, the Benjamin Franklin effect. You know I also adhere by that.

      • Abgrund says:

        There is obviously a point at which Doing Things Yourself is impossible, impractical, or unrewarding. Imagine raising your own livestock, sawing your own lumber, milling your own grain, and blacksmithing your own tools. Or providing your own sex… But in general, people tend to overestimate the difficulty of tasks and underestimate the value of Doing Things Themselves.

        Changing your own brake pads, for instance. You may only save eighty dollars each time by doing it yourself, and the first time may take you several hours of research and work, but the second time you can buy the parts and do the job in less time than it would have taken you to drive to the shop and wait on them. You’ve also improved your mechanical skills and learned a little about automobiles.

        In many cases it’s not only cheaper, but /faster/, to Do It Yourself. You can often cook a meal in less time than it would take to drive to a restaurant and wait for service, fix your car before a mechanic would get around to even starting on it, cut your own hair quicker than go to a barber, etc. And often you will do a better job, even if you lack experience and proper tools compared to the professional, because you have an investment in the result and no reason to cheat. If you grow your own vegetables, you know exactly how much pesticide has been used, but do you think the supermarket owner really cares if the “organic” produce has been doused in malathion?

        In the long run, though, the skills, confidence, and broader horizons you build by doing things yourself are sometimes the main payoff – learning outweighs results. Every time you learn to do one thing, you learn a little about other things as well. If you do your own taxes, you learn a little about tax law and accounting. If you fix a leaky faucet, you learn a little about buying plumbing supplies. And you meet people from whom you can learn more in the future.

        The less you Do For Yourself, the less you explore your potential and the more of life is opaque and ineluctable. The more you Do For Yourself the more you are in control; your options and your ability to weigh them are both greater.

        Up to a certain point, it is not even necessary to sacrifice specialization in order to generalize. Driving to the store to buy a new shirt when you could have sewed up the old one in ten minutes is not going to advance you in your specialty, unless you specialize in shopping. It is easy to find people who have neither breadth nor depth, and one can find people who have both breadth and depth, but it is rare to find a person who exhibits one without the other, and such people seem psychologically abnormal – they have some kind of compulsion that makes them an exclusive specialist (or prevents any level of specialization). A degree of breadth is also /necessary/ for depth – if a man is ignorant of history, he cannot excel at economics; if he is ignorant of psychology, he cannot excel at medicine. I think the basic division is not between specialists and generalists, but between learners and non-learners.

        Ultimately, of course – for the learner – some choices must be made between specialization and generalization, and these choices can be difficult. In general (pun intended) I think it is best to generalize as much as practical, in order to have more options. Social pressure is in the opposite direction – it’s more convenient for /other/ people if you are a pigeonholed expert, reliable when needed and otherwise discarded. This should be resisted, but ultimately real success demands specialization – at some point, the options must be drastically narrowed to make any useful progress.

        What is the writing of Buckminster Fuller to which you refer?

      • “if a man is ignorant of history, he cannot excel at economics”

        — That’s true.

        I also agree with you that comprehensivism (doing it yourself) boost self-esteem in a big way.

        Buckminster Fuller — “Everything I Know”. A long-ass audio file you can download on PirateBay or similar sites. Poor quality, but he says a ton of intelligent things, and shares his idea on the history of how things have come to be.

  19. Michal says:

    I have one which is a mix of #7-10 of yours: “Every sustained action brings results.”
    Once you not merely believe this, but KNOW it’s true, it’s hard to stop working.

    • Abgrund says:

      True, sustained action is the only way to get results. It doesn’t guarantee results, however, at least not the results you want. Consider the sunk cost fallacy – it applies to sustained effort, too. Sometimes it’s better to give up on X and start on Y. A common example is marriage – men try to stick it out when the best thing to do is to suck it up and cut their losses. That also invokes Commaxim 7 – men lose sight of what they want from marriage, if they ever had a clear idea in the first place. Gradually it turns from “pussy and positive reinforcement every day” to “it’s safer to put up with the bitch than fight for custody.” So, don’t be afraid to fold ’em when you have a losing hand – but always take a fresh hand on the next deal.

      • Michal says:

        I don’t know how it works in your neighborhood, but I swore “till death do us part”, so sustained effort definitely applies here.
        And “sustained” doesn’t mean “stupid”. I can change my tactics, but I always make the effor.

  20. Abgrund says:

    On #7: Good call on the horseshit of “compound interest”. But it’s even worse than that. No stable, passive investment available to the small investor will ever pay enough to beat inflation, let alone earn a net. (You will, however, have to pay taxes on your “earnings”). To get a real return, you have to put in continuous effort. Lazy in = Losses out.

  21. Dan Erickson says:

    Here’s one I made up shortly after I started blogging: “Slowly grow the circle and simply share.”

    Another I made is “Food and gas, always cash.”

    And, “Kill the bills and fill the jugs.”

    I especially like #3 on your list. It can be a real motivator to leave something great behind when you go.

  22. Amor Fati!

  23. Patrick Kyle says:

    Great article. Also some good input from the commenters. One maxim the has greatly helped me is: I am 100% responsible for my life and everything in it.

    Its not original with me. I read it somewhere years ago and it stuck. Even things that happen to me that are out of my control, I am 100% responsible for my attitudes and actions in response to them. This has changed the entire direction of my life and improved the quality of it.

    Thanks for the good work you are doing here, and I am enjoying your e-book, ‘Breaking out of Homeostasis.’

    • Hey Patrick.

      Great maxim. Thanks for sharing.

      Also, glad you enjoy BOOH. :)

    • Abgrund says:

      “Even things that happen to me that are out of my control, I am 100% responsible for my attitudes and actions in response to them.”

      Similar to Viktor Frankyl, and one of my favorites. Never accept disempowerment.

  24. I have a maxim that I stuck over my monitor, which I see every day. It’s a bit long, but I really like it, here it goes:

    Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. Don’t strive to make our presence noticed, just make your absence felt.

    Short but sweet :)

    Great article Ludvig!!

  25. I particularly needed to read #4. It can be so easy to feel that our lives are being judged on some larger, ostensibly objective, scale. In reality, the only opinion of us that matters is our own.

    This revelation offers tremendous freedom, if it can be truly taken to heart. Thanks Ludvig!

  26. These are indeed great maxims. The whole post reminds me of something I read Socrates once said – ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’ I think we can often fail to take to heart our responsibility to take the steering wheel and make use of the time we’ve been given. That’s why #4 and #10 really resonated with me. They’re about asking the big questions. What’s the meaning of the life I’m living? Am I really engaging with my purpose? Have I taken the time to understand what it is? Like that famous Mark Twain quote says: ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.’

  27. “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength” Marcus Aurelius
    That one is huge for me.

    “The true entrepeneur is a doer, not a dreamer” Nolan Bushnell
    When ever i feel lazy, that’s my mantra.

    “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” – Left-Handed Path Proverb
    Some think it’s from Assasin’s creed, but it’s actually an old spiritual saying.

    Nothing is true is to question morality and limiting beliefs to create your own view of the world. Everything is permitted is to not limit your actions whil you make yourself responsible od the consequences.

    Awesome Article men, keep it up.

  28. Great post as always Ludvig…:)

    Each of us should print our own maxims to live and post it in our wall

  29. Hell yes I love #2 the most.

    Your brain is your creation through neuroplasticity. It’s your baby. You must foster it and nurture it in the exact way you want it to grow, and beautifully enough, YOU pick the direction.

    This is so crucial that many people overlook this becoming whipped by the wind and not seeing that we have SO much more control over our environments than we think. It’s ridiculous. So just focus on what you can control and deal with the rest!

    – Evan

  30. Thanks for sharing these, Ludvig!

    Number five is my favorite, but sometimes, especially when the going is tough, I find it difficult to realize that my situation won’t be the same forever. Somehow my mind tries to convince me that my circumstances will stay the same and that makes me lose hope and dislike my life.

    I really have to work on this one.

    Great read!

    Cheers,
    Nelu

  31. I really like these Maxims Ludvig, I am learning a ton more about personal development with your posts. Thanks!

    BTW, I like the maxim of compound experience. It makes a ton of logical sense. I mean I read the Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers and that 10,000 hours of mastery might be linked to this Compounding Maxim.

    Cheers.

  32. About #7.2:
    “2. In 20 years from now, your hefty sum of $207,729.47 won’t have the same purchasing power as it does today. Given how much money is being printed nowadays, it’s hard to know how much that amount of money will be worth in the future.”

    How about buying bitcoins? (using them to invest). Those can’t be printed.

  33. Ludvig! I’m wondering if you had some systems and methods for incorporating these heuristics / rules in your daily decision taking..TY

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