1. Don’t watch commercials
“An individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. Those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.” -Steven Pressfield
1. Don’t Watch Commercials
Commercials offer you virtually 0% value. They are psychologically designed to capture your attention and make you buy something — regardless if you actually should.
Extraordinary, focused people are never “sold” anything. They decide what they want, then they buy it. Everything else is just distractions and propaganda.
2. Don’t Take Advice From Almost Anyone
“Never ask advice of someone with whom you wouldn’t want to trade places.”
-Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect
If you want an extraordinary life, you’ll soon discover almost no one knows how to achieve that goal.
Frankly, most people aren’t living an “extraordinary life.” If you took a screenshot of the “average” American, here’s what you’d see:
- $67,400 in debt (that’s just under 35. It triples for 35–44 year olds and gets worse from there).
- A coin-toss whether or not they get divorced
- Only 2 “close” friends (perhaps less)
- Half of them are desperate to leave their terrible job
It’s not a pretty picture.
The lesson here is simple: only take advice from people who know how to get where you want to go.
3. Choose Learning and Growing, Not Entertainment and Distraction
“Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become.” -Hal Elrod
Your income, relationships, and success are determined by your learning.
Most people spend more money on entertainment and gadgets than self-education. This is why they remain poor and broke with superficial relationships.
The quality of your learning and how much you invest in yourself directly determines the extent of your growth.
4. Work Through Your Emotional Crap
I was addicted to pornography since around age 11.
I turned to porn because I was bullied constantly for my speech impediment, and had terrible family issues. I watched my parents divorce, I saw firsthand the effects of alcohol and cheating and miscommunication. At 17, I was a fragile, insecure, resentful train wreck.
But in college, I met my now-wife Kimi and I knew that if I didn’t change, odds were high I’d end up just repeating the cycle. So I went to therapy. I went to counseling. I began the long process of working through my addiction and talking through my hurts, so I could get better.
Most people let their wounds dictate their lifestyle.
But this is just an excuse. If you want to avoid living on someone else’s terms, then resolve your crap. Your relationships, finances, self-esteem, career, and health will all improve because of this.
5. Don’t Watch the News
The majority of mainstream media is more focused on promoting their own biased agenda through fear and despair — not giving you the actual facts.
We should all be informed. But the news has become a graveyard of misinformation, bias, and lies designed to reinforce your biased, not make you a more informed person.
I struggle with being an informed voter, because every time I begin to investigate important issues and learn about candidates running for office, I get sidetracked with the overwhelming bias, prejudice, and fear-mongering most news outlets have resorted to.
6. It’s Lonely At the Top, But Climb Anyway
In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger:
“People were always talking about how few performers there are at the top of the ladder, but I was always convinced there was room for one more. I felt that, because there was so little room, people got intimidated and felt more comfortable staying on the bottom of the ladder. But, in fact, the more people that think that, the more crowded the bottom of the ladder becomes! Don’t go where it’s crowded. Go where it’s empty.”
Instead of fighting for scraps with the other 99%, be different. Be the person who believes truly enormous success is possible.
You’ll find the competition to actually be less at the top than it is in the middle.
7. Don’t Look at Social Media
Someone once said, “If you’re not paying for you, then you are the product.”
Social media props itself up as a means to “connect” with people — through messages, pictures, and funny videos. Social media allows you to always connect with your friends and colleagues!
The reality is far more bleak. In truth, social media’s primary purpose is to mine as much data about you as possible, and sell that information to companies and advertisers. That’s their entire business model.
This is how most people continue to live on other people’s terms; allowing themselves to be mined for information and psychoanalyzed by big corporations with the means to play on your deepest fears, insecurities, and goals.
8. If You MUST Use Social Media, Only Allow “Human” Notifications
If you simply must use social media — it’s your job, you run a business on it, etc. — then only turn on “human” notifications on your device.
Most people are slaves to push notifications, that long list of “alerts!” and “updates” on their home screen. By default, most apps are set up to notify you, often with colorful signs and that little red dot. The problem is, almost no notifications come from actual “humans” — friends and family connecting with you.
Don’t be a slave to emails, reminders, advertising, or other non-human notifications. If you must use these apps, ensure the only notifications you’re getting came from real people you know.
9. Read 26 Books/Year
26 books a year is 2 books a month.
1 book a week is hard. I’ve been doing that this year. It’s fun and challenging, but it is hard. If you fall behind a week, it’s really hard to catch up.
Reading 26 books is easier. 2 a month isn’t bad. If you’re a slow reader, pick books you like. It’s usually easier to read fiction than most other types of genres.
A friend of mine once told me that instead of reading 30 books a year, I should read the same book 30 times. I think that’s utterly ridiculous. I reread important books, but it’s better to read more quantity (at first) so you can find what author Ryan Holiday calls “quake books,” books that cause a metaphorical earthquake in your mind and radically change your perspective.
Just for fun, here are several of my “quake” books:
- Mindset by Carol Dweck
- DotCom Secrets by Russel Brunson
- The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- How to Be an Adult by David Richo
- The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ Demarco
10. Don’t Make All Your Money From Your J-O-B
“You won’t make the kind of money that can set you up for life and let you design your own lifestyle if your sole source of income is the salary paid to you by your boss.” -Jon Westenberg
Ordinary people focus on getting a paycheck. But extraordinary people focus on building wealth and creating income.
That’s one of the most important lessons I learned in MJ Demarco’s best-seller, The Millionaire Fastlane. Although he might be overly biased towards entrepreneurship (I still believe working at a “j-o-b” can be great in the right context), he stresses the fact that passive income allows you more freedom, something a job can almost never give you.
Trading your time for dollars — the overwhelmingly primary way most people make money — is a losing game. You only have so much time in the day. It’s dangerous (because your job isn’t guaranteed) and slow (you can only earn so much).
Right now, I have 5 income streams (and I’m working on creating more):
- Paid Medium posts
- Amazon affiliate links
- Online courses
- Book sales
I’m always trying to add more, so I can have more time for myself and less time working for someone else.
11. Don’t Buy What Everyone Else Buys
“It’s absurd that we would prioritize the hottest new device, the cool car, or trendy toy over owning that which makes us feel the most engaged and most alive.” -Neil Patel
If you do what everyone else does, you’ll end up just like everyone else.
If you want to avoid living on someone else’s terms, don’t buy what everyone else is buying. Often, buying new gadgets like the new smartphone or designer clothes is all part of the attempt to “look good.” Many people are stuck in a popularity contest — with their family, coworkers, friends, colleagues — and they keep spending money to keep up and be better.
Your insecurity is expensive. Don’t buy what everyone else buys. Save it for better stuff.
12. In Fact, Buy Almost Nothing
The more “things” you have, the more weight you carry.
In the past few years, I’ve shifted from buying “things” to buying experiences. My wife and I have traveled the world, fed elephants, swam with manta rays, eaten at incredible restaurants, and built up a vault of memories and experiences.
Some of the best advice I can give you is this: buy almost nothing.
Thousands of years ago, the ancient stoic philosopher Seneca wrote:
“Not needing wealth is more valuable than wealth itself.”
He went on: “He who needs riches least, enjoys riches most.”
Be different. Choose to spend your money different than everyone else, and you’ll eventually get what no one else has.
13. Keep Learning After School Ends
“Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.” -Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert Comics
The reason I failed as a writer for 4.5 years wasn’t because my writing sucked (although to be fair, it did suck).
The reason I failed for so long was because I refused to learn the skills of my trade.
It wasn’t until I invested in myself — bought a writing course, bought writing books, began learning the practices of viral writers — that I started to get ahead. After I learned how to create multiple income streams, I started making literally thousands of dollars each month — consistently — from my writing.
The first 4.5 years, I earned a total of $40. This month (like last month and the month before that), I’ve made thousands of dollars working from home as my own boss.
That’s the difference between a learned and someone who stops learning after school ends.
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain
14. Be Unapologetic About Your Values
I used to be a total pushover.
In high school, I’d do things, say things, and act certain ways so that people would like me. It was childish behavior, and I acted like a child. I’d change my values of a hot girl asked me to.
Not anymore. In order to get what you truly want, you need to be unapologetic about your values. Because there will always be someone who wants you to change your values for their gain, using you to secure what they want.
Stick to your values. Don’t let others make you act certain ways just because they asked.
15. Don’t Get “Sold” Anything Ever Again
When my wife and I were teaching english in South Korea, we had the chance to travel to Thailand.
It was awesome, and the food was incredible. But everywhere we went, there were “tuk tuks” (anyone who’s gone to southeast Asia knows what I’m talking about). Tuk tuks are little cabs attached to motorcycles, a taxi for tourists.
Tuk tuk drivers are incredibly aggressive and pushy. My wife and could walk down a single block and be offered a tuk tuk ride 20 times.
One driver in particular yelled us over. We needed to get somewhere, but we didn’t want to overpay for a taxi ride there. The tuk tuk driver began to tell us how we needed him, how we’d be completely lost with out him. He was condescending and insulting, making us feel small and inadequate without him as he tried to “sell” us.
This is how many salespeople try to approach people today. Don’t let them do that to you.
I hate being sold things. I’m methodical; I do my research, and only after looking up exactly what I want do I pull out my cash.
Stop being “sold” things you don’t need, by people who really have no idea what you need.
16. Say “No” to Almost Everything
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” -Warren Buffet
It’s no great achievement to do what everyone else is doing.
It’s not special or unique to say “yes” to everything everyone else says yes to.
If you want to avoid living life on other people’s terms, say “no” to just about everything. Of course, there’s a time and place to say “yes” — prolific author and musician Derek Sivers once told a story about taking any gig he was offered as a new musician, so he could learn experience and skills and get his name out there.
But most of the time, saying “yes” just fills up your schedule with good-not-great obligations that take time away from what truly matters.
“Be the guy that says no. it’s no great achievement to go along with the crowd. be the unusual guy, the extraordinary guy.” -Darren Hardy
17. Stand Up to Your Bully
“A bully will back down before the runtiest twerp who stands his ground.” -Steven Pressfield
This one is hard.
I’ve had bullies, especially in school growing up. Like Bryan.
One time in 10th grade, there was a bully in my P.E. class. His name was Bryan Cardoza, I think. His gag was pantsing people — pulling down their gym shorts and exposing their underwear in public. He did it to guys andgirls., cackling with his cronies as he ran away. Truly an awful guy.
He had pansted me several times. I was shy, quiet, reserved in high school. But one morning, he pantsed me again. Something clicked inside me — “no more,” I thought. I pulled my pants up, turned around, and punched him in the face as hard as I could.
He was stunned, and after he regained his composure, the teacher had to break us up when he charged at me.
Frankly, I’m so happy the teacher came in. I’m not a fighter, that was the only time in my life where I’ve ever punched someone. I’m not encouraging you to punch your bully, either. I’m just saying even standing up to them can be terrifying. It takes guts.
I’m still not great at standing up to bullies. But if you let them, they’re start defining your life, telling you what you can and can’t do.
Don’t let them. Even if it’s hard.
18. Reinvest Your Free Time
“Successful people don’t see it as free time, they see is as the only time they have to do the things they really want to do n life — and they don’t take a minute for granted.” –Nicolas Cole
A lot of people live most of their lives on other’s terms. When these people finally have free time, what do they usually do? Sit on the couch and watch TV.
Your free time is the only time you have to invest in yourself and build your dreams for the future. Are you willing to do the work, or will you continue to spend your free time on low-frequency activities?
When my wife and I moved to South Korea to teach english, I became more disciplined than I ever had before. I’d wake up at 5am — consistently! — to write. Then I’d go to the school and teach the crazy little monsters how to say “apple” and “spaghetti.” But every break I had, I’d run over to the Starbucks and write more, read more, build more.
Now, I have a full-time writing business where I work from home and earn thousands of dollars every month.
This is the fruit of my labor; I reinvested my free time. I couldn’t spent it numbing out and bingeing on TV (which, frankly, I did sometimes). Rest and recovery are extremely important. But tell me how you spend your free time and I’ll have a good idea of where you’re headed.
19. Cut Out Naysayers and Haters
“You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and embarrassment to others.”
-Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Your ascent often highlights others’ descent and stagnation.
Naysayers and their doubts say more about them than about you. But if you let them, these criticisms and raised eyebrows will define you and your definition of success.
There will always be naysayers and haters, especially when you first start experiencing success. Don’t try to avoid them; learn from them, and become better.
You can effectively cut them out of your life, though. My response to criticism nowadays is humbly but objectively assess if the criticism is true and useful.
If it is, great. I can use it.
If it’s full of crap, I drop it and move on.
I don’t live by the terms of others.
20. Give Away Money
“Giving money is the secret to most wealthy families.” -Robert Kiyosaki
As a Christian, I’ve been tithing as long as I can remember — giving back 10% of my income to God (as in the church and church ministries).
You don’t have to be a Christian to experience the benefits of giving money away. Something you learn when you tithe is that it actually feels awesome. It helps free you from the pervasive poverty mentality, claiming “I’ll never have enough!” in despair.
Giving away money puts you squarely in the center of a small, narrow group of people. This group is detached from most of the world and its toxic greed and social expectations. No one expects you to give money; when you do, you tap into freedom most people don’t understand.
21. Read Personal Finance Books
Speaking of money…
One morning at my old corporate job, I remember walking to the elevator with my nose firmly lodged in Thomas Stanley’s The Millionaire Next Door.
A coworker of mine tapped me on the shoulder, and asked me what I was reading. I showed him it was a personal finance book.
“Is that for school or something?” he asked quizzically.
I shook my head. “Nope. It’s just for me,” I grinned.
He stepped back, impressed. “Wow,” he chuckled. “You don’t really see people doing that.”
Most people don’t read personal finance books. Reading these books won’t make you rich, but they will give you the knowledge and tools to earn wealth, if you choose to.
More wealth means living less on other people’s terms and more on your own.
22. Know Nutrition 101
There were, are, and always will be dubious health fads that, in reality, aren’t good for you.
I recommend reading Aubrey Marcus’ great book, Own the Day, Own Your Life. He lays out a solid foundation of the truth about your diet in a way that’s easy to understand and isn’t pushed by large corporations — just facts.
Don’t always believe what you hear. Take the time to research yourself, and learn about what you’re eating and how your body reacts.
23. Know Finances 101
Most people don’t know how to balance a checkbook, make a budget, or identify what “good” or “bad” finances actually means.
This article will help you with the basics: “7 Surefire Strategies to Build Massive Wealth According to the Top 7 Finance Books”
24. Know relationships 101
When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us apiece of advice that would end up changing our lives:
Always make the first move.
The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you don’t want to).
Most people have strained and superficial relationships with family and even with friends. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize.
This is a pride thing. It’s one of the main killers of marriages, friendships, and even families.
If you want to have deep, meaningful relationships with your friends, family, and even just the people in your day-to-day life, make the first move — even if it should be them. Be the first to:
- Initiate the conversation
- Send the first text
- Say you miss them
- Say you love them
- Apologize and ask for forgiveness
- Organize a hangout
- Compliment them
- Thank them
- Tell them you appreciate what they did
25. Take a Nap When You’re Sleepy, Don’t Power Through It
I used to work in corporate America for nearly 5 years — you can’t take naps at 2:30pm at your job. (Well, maybe you can if you’re sneaky).
I’ve been working from home for several months now, and it’s great to just lie down and close my eyes for 20–30 min during that mid-afternoon lull. It means I don’t have to rely on coffee or outside entertainment to get me through the urge to lie down — I just lie down.
Instead of lowering your energy, creativity, and focus through excessive caffeine — which makes you irritable, tired, and unfocused — choose to actually rest when you can.
“You cannot allow the actions of others to define your reality.” -Steven Pressfield
Sadly, most people are not living life on their own terms.
Their lives are largely dictated by others: their boss, their colleagues, their family, their friends, or just society in general.
This is low-frequency thinking.
Choose to be extraordinary and avoid living on others’ terms.