Little Bits of Wisdom is a collection of aphorisms, ideas, advice, and strategies to help you live a meaningful life. I draw these lessons from subjects such as stoicism, behavioural economics, neuroscience, business, sociology, and present them in a digestible and actionable form.
Compressing wisdom into little actionable bits is extremely valuable, but so rarely done. It might feel arrogant and overconfident to tell people what to do. Who am I to decide for them? I pondered over this for quite some time. On the other hand I wondered, Who am I not to do that? Especially if it’s useful to people.
I read ~32 books a year, and LBW is my attempt to compress all the wisdom I’ve gained into directives. It’s a succinct and powerful way to communicate an idea, and you are free to agree or disagree. I don’t expect you to blindly follow what I say.
The ideas below are listed in reverse chronological order. The latest ideas appear on top. I would be updating this page every now and then, so it is advisable to bookmark it so that you can visit it periodically.
Don’t Wait to Feel Better
Most people know what is good for them. They know what will make them feel better: exercise, pursuing goals, hobbies, time with those they care about, etc. They do not avoid these things because of ignorance, but because they are no longer “motivated” to do them. They are waiting until they feel better all by themselves, without really doing anything. Frequently, it’s a long wait.
The Dangers of Comparing Yourself to Others
When you compare yourself to others, you are often comparing their best features against your average ones. You naturally want to be better than them, but the unconscious realisation that you are not becomes self-destructive. Comparisons between people are a recipe for unhappiness unless you are the best in the world. Which, let’s be honest, only one person is.
You can be anything but you cannot be everything. Therefore what really matters is what you think about what you do, what your standards are, what you can learn today. The only game you can really win is becoming a better version of yourself. This way your effort and energy go towards upgrading yourself, and not worrying about what others are doing. You become happier, free from the shackles of false comparisons, and focused on the present moment.
The most important things in life are measured internally. Thinking about what matters to you is hard. Playing to someone else’s standard is easy. That’s why a lot of people do it. But winning the wrong game is pointless. You get one life. Play your own game.
Comparing yourself to others allows them to drive your behaviour. Stop doing that.
Memory is not an accurate transcription of past experience. Rather it is a story we tell ourselves about the past, full of distortions, wishful thinking, and unfulfilled dreams.
Don’t Bow to The Expert
Richard Feynman cared about the physics, not the physicist. If somebody said something absurd he called it crazy right away. It didn’t matter if that person was a Nobel laureate. On the other hand, if somebody says something smart, it didn’t matter if they were a janitor.
Don’t bow to the expert. They are either lucky or good storytellers. There are really no “experts”. Listen to reason, and reason alone.
Don’t Ignore Reality
Be an advocate of peace. Always! Go as far as you can to avoid war. But during war, don’t pretend to be an advocate of peace. Accept it and change your game. Go full offence!
We often don’t get what we want from life. But if you ignore reality, you’re gonna get crushed.
Smiling is a skill. It can be learnt.
Being friendly is a skill. It can be developed.
Being approachable is a skill. It can be inculcated.
Your personality is not a fixed entity. It can grow.
Deal Or Avoid
Life will never conform to all our desires. Ever! You can either get good at dealing with this fact or good at avoiding it.
Never change yourself for somebody else, no matter who that person is. You would regret it later.
Change yourself only for yourself—perhaps with the help of somebody else.
Failure & Invention
Failure is far more closer to invention than you think. To invent you have to experiment. If you know in advance whether it’s going to work, it’s really not an experiment. In the true spirit of experimentation, you’ll have to try out multiple things, and a bunch of them are going to fail. That’s the only way it works.
Don’t Criticise If You Cannot Praise
A person who doesn’t praise you when you do something well, but criticises you when you don’t do something well is not your well wisher.
In other words, one who doesn’t praise you has no right to criticise you.
Forgiveness is A Skill
Forgiveness is a skill. It can be learnt, practised, and mastered.
Forgiveness is correlated with all sorts of great things such as better relationships, less anxiety and depression, greater mental security and confidence, and most importantly being marginally less of a despicable person.
It would be smart to focus on learning this skill.
How Do You Think?
The most important moments of your life are decided not by what you know, but by how you think.
The question you ought to ask yourself is: how do I think when I face a problem I haven't seen before?
Your answer to this is gonna make all the difference in the world.
It's practically not possible for you to know everything. But you can change how you think, how you approach a problem, how you deal with adversity and stress. These are skills that can be learnt. They'll give you a framework to deal with all sorts of unknown situations.
Work on them.
Playing Within Your Circle of Competence
Playing within your circle of competence is always a better strategy.
Unlike pseudo-intellectuals who seek validation, fame and fortune, and “intervene” to help the society, but often end up harming it instead, it’s the humble man who actually helps the society by staying away, thereby inflicting no harm.
The humble man minds their own business, and limits their circle of competence to what is truly important. The humble man is not a bullshit vendor.
Getting Rich v Neighbours
If you’ve good income and no desire to impress your neighbours, you’ll get rich pretty fast.
If you’re looking for perfect investment; you’ll never be able to invest.
If you’re looking for perfect spouse; you’ll never get married.
If you’re looking for perfect job; you’ve to remain unemployed.
If you’re looking for perfect life; you’ll never enjoy living.
Failure v Success
We need to accept the fact that we won’t always make the right decisions. We will royally screw up sometimes.
Understand that failure is not the opposite of success. It’s a part of success.
Most of us inevitably compare ourselves to others at some point. But chronic comparing only leads to misery.
What matters is not what we do compared to what someone else does. What matters is what we do compared to what we’re capable of doing.
We need to pay attention to this gap.
Are You Too Busy?
If you think you are too busy, do a 30 minute by 30 minute audit of a day. You’ll find out how much time you’re wasting.
Plans v Progress
When making plans, think big.
When making progress, think small.
Fight For It
To promote any value, even love and peace, you must be willing to fight for it, and aim at results. Don’t get carried away by the good, warm feeling that expressing such ideas might bring you.
They Aren’t Paying Attention
Other people pay much less attention to you than you think. They’re often far too absorbed in their own subjective experiences to pick up on subtle cues related to your feelings.
If you’re annoyed at your partner, they’re probably just too busy thinking about their own problems (such as what they need to do at work, or what they’re planning to cook for dinner) to scrutinise your facial expressions.
They’re not deliberately ignoring you. They’re just thinking about other things.
In the workplace, a job well done almost always depends upon external factors like office politics, the opinions of your supervisors, or the mood of your clients.
In many sports, outcomes are affected by things like the weather, equipment, officiating, or the performance of teammates.
But personal growth is different. If you wish to read more, learn more, write more, behave well, eat well, sleep well, there are rarely any external factors to blame. Usually it’s you who creates an internal obstacle for yourself.
What you get out of yourself is proportionate to the internal obstacles you get rid of.
Clarity in Communication
If your words can be perceived in different ways, they’ll be understood in the way which does the most harm.
Few things are as important to study, practice, and perfect as clear communication.
The World Doesn’t Care
The world is aloof, busy, and distracted.
If you want the world to pay attention to you, you have to provide a compelling reason. You have to provide value that the world cares about. It doesn’t care about your dreams and life goals.
It’s better to have a bad strategy than having no strategy at all. As General Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
An imperfect start can always be improved, but obsessing over a perfect plan will never take you anywhere on its own.
Don't focus on winning trivial arguments.
Did someone say something you don't agree with? Agree to disagree, and move on to more important things.
Life is short. Learning to not care about having the last word will save you a lot of time and energy.
If you think you know how someone else feels, you should ask them to confirm. You shouldn’t assume you’ve got it right—you probably haven’t.
If you want someone to know how you feel, tell them in the clearest terms possible. Don’t make assumptions.
Being subtle about feelings is not the best idea, especially in high-stakes situations—be it in a relationship or at work. Err on the side of caution whenever possible.
Roots of Life Problems
When thought is crucial, you often act without thinking. When action is necessary, you often keep on thinking without acting. All the problems in your life have their roots in one of the above.
See things as they are. Seek peace in reality. Control what you can control. Have a strategy to deal with things outside your control.
You don’t need to be positive. Positive thinking is an illusion.
If you posses self-discipline, you have the ability to determine what you do with your life. If you lack self-discipline, the path you are taking through life is determined by someone or something else.
Self-discipline is worth possessing.
People Don’t Change
You don't change people. People change themselves.
Forcing change, or trying to guilt people into changing aren't effective strategies.
Therefore, articulate your thoughts so that people question their own beliefs. Let them decide independently. Devoid of any force or pressure. Let them come to the conclusion on their own. Then it'll be a permanent change.
Ask a Question
Rather than saying, “I cannot do that,” try asking, “How can I do that?” Rather than accepting a statement, ask yourself a question you can answer.
“How can I get wealthy?” over “I cannot get wealth”.
“How can I run 10 km?” over “I cannot run 10 km.”
“How can I start a business?” over “I cannot start a business.”
This is small change in language, but a great shift in perspective.
Find a Better Job
Every time you get a new job, immediately start looking for a better one.
Chances are that the best job for you won't become available at precisely the time you declare yourself ready.
Your best bet is to always be looking for a better deal. The better deal has its own schedule. Your job is not your job. Your job is to find a better job.
Try The Other One
It might be that your customers, your followers, your team members, etc. aren't bright or caring enough, aren't interested or attentive enough, aren't curious or open-minded enough to understand or appreciate your work.
Or, it might be that your work isn't good enough yet.
If you've been assuming one of the above so far, it's time to assume the other one.
It won't give you a solution, but it'll change your perspective.
Conquer Your Mornings
Get up at the same time everyday.
Setup a morning ritual that consists a mix of exercising, running, reading, making your bed, taking cold showers, planning your day, etc.
Follow it religiously. Do it everyday.
If you keep your morning routine consistent, you gather strength and energy for the whole day.
No matter how much the stress, no matter how tough the time, no matter how awful you feel, if you conquer your mornings, you conquer the day.
If you conquer your days, you conquer life!
I dread them. Especially if it's a friend, or somebody close to me. But, more than often, we all need some tough love. Colleagues, friends, family members, children, and everybody else.
I try to write down everything I want to say or discuss in advance. This helps me have difficult conversations I'd avoid having.
Writing your thoughts help you figure out how to communicate what you want to say in a non-violent way. It'll also help you think how to counter the arguments your counterpart would have. This will also help you not chicken out or soft-pedal during a heated conversation.
P.S. I read the notes either right before or even during the conversation
Stop Chasing Shortcuts
Getting rich, losing weight, increasing productivity, getting more followers, starting a new business-everything that we wish to achieve often come with heavily promoted shortcuts as alternatives. For example, “Try this simple trick to become instantly super productive,” or “10 way to get 10x followers in 10 days.”
The truth is, there are no shortcuts. So, don't fall prey. If the shortcuts and secrets would have worked as promised, they wouldn't be shortcuts. They'd be the norm.
All good things take time and effort. So, my advice is to embrace the process, and gradually improve it. Improve your thinking, your strategy, and your tactic.
Play the long game.
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