Life – Lessons That Will Make You Successful

29 Life-Changing Lessons That Will Make You Successful And More Strategic

There is this myth that mentors are people you have to know and see. That it is some official designation to seek out. I’ve never met Tyler Cowen, the bestselling author, economist and thinker. We’ve never spoken on the phone. Our longest email conversation might have been three sentences. Yet he has been one of the most significant influences in the education and evolution of my life. By every definition, he’s been what you would call a mentor.

Lately, I’ve been trying to write about all the ways people have helped me. It’s been an exercise in gratitude but also articulation — in writing it down, I am remembering it and codifying it so I never forget the lessons. Below are just some of the things I’ve learned from this polymathic professor of economics, voracious reader and contrarian philosopher. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to meet him one day (I hope I am) but even if you don’t, he can still be your mentor.

Below are 29 lessons I learned from Tyler over the last 10 years. Hope you gain from them as much as I have.


1. See Yourself Afresh — This is one of my favorite quotes from Tyler: “Treat yourself like a piece of your writing which you set aside for a week so you could look at it fresh.”

2. Being Curious Is a Career — It was crazy to me at first that Tyler got to do what he did for a living: write blog posts, read books, have ideas. That’s what I wanted to do. I think the way you get paid to do that is by making that curiosity valuable to other people: Tyler blogs every day and his links and questions help people do their jobs, his books propose provocative big ideashis podcast is entertaining and important. You can’t just nerd out — there has to be value creation

3. Complacency Is the Enemy — Tyler’s newest book (which is awesome) is about all the ways that society has become complacent. We accept the status quo, we don’t want to disrupt it. People move less, change careers less, change their minds less, live in less diverse places, riot less than they used to. I’ve done most of those things in my life (except the last one), it’s how you keep things interesting and find opportunities. Point being: Don’t worry as much about disruption and chaos — it might simply mean interesting things are happening — fear stability and complacency because it means decay.

4. Seek Out Quake Books — When I was 19 or 20, Tyler talked to me about the concept of “quake books” — books that shake you to your core. As he wrote in his 2007 email to me: “I would more likely intensively engage with some important book totally full of new ideas. Hayek. Parfit. Plato. And so on. There just aren’t books like that left for me anymore. So I read many more, to learn bits, but haven’t in years experienced a ‘view quake.’ That is sad, to me at least, but I don’t know how to avoid how that has turned out. So enjoy your best reading years while you can!”

5. What’s the Cost of This Fight? — There is a line in one of Tyler’s books where he talks about fighting with a spouse over a couch (or something like that). He says that maybe you like your idea 20% more than her/his idea, so you fight and win. Now you’re a little bit happier. But what did that victory cost you in terms of an unhappy spouse? Is it worth more or less than how much you value your opinion over the couch? I never would have thought about it that way — I can’t tell you how many arguments this has saved me. (The answer is ‘not enough.’)

6. Expectations Are the Enemy in (Long Distance) Relationships — I was in a long distance relationship in 2006 when I read Tyler’s post on them. It was another brilliant perspective that helped me relax and made things better. I ended up marrying that girl a decade later. Thanks Tyler!

7. Know What is Scarce — “In today’s global economy here is what is scarce: 1. Quality land and natural resources 2. Intellectual property, or good ideas about what should be produced. 3. Quality labor with unique skills.” I framed the longer passage this line is from and I have it above my desk as a daily reminder. It comes from Average is Over — another absolutely amazing book.

8. To Speed Read, Read A Lot — How do you become a better and more prolific reader? I’ll let Tyler tell you: “The best way to read quickly is to read lots. And lots. And to have started a long time ago. Then maybe you know what is coming in the current book. Reading quickly is often, in a margin-relevant way, close to not reading much at all.”

9. Knowledge Compounds — I think what he’s also saying there is that the value of reading compounds over time. Reading more makes you a better and faster reader, learning about stuff makes it easier and faster for you to learn more.

10. Your Life Is Not a Story — Tyler has observed that most people describe their lives as stories and journeys. But giving in to this temptation can be dangerous. Narratives often lead to an overly simplistic understanding of events, causes, and effects — and, often, to arrogance.

11. Move to Texas — In 2013, Tyler wrote a Time cover story about why everyone was moving to Texas. That’s not quite why I moved to Austin but it didn’t hurt.

12. When Traveling, Pretend You’re A Thief — I like his trick when visiting museums: Pretend you’re a thief who is casing the joint. It changes how you perceive and remember the art. Try it.

13. Just Go — Another travel tip from Tyler: “My main tip is simply: “Go, go go!” Go. People have a status quo bias when they make decisions and they don’t take enough chances.”

14. Read However You Want — People are amazed at how much Tyler reads (it’s a lot) but they miss that he has his own set of rules for doing it. He skips around. He quits books he doesn’t like. He might read a novel from only the perspective of one of the characters. He’ll ruin the ending. He just does whatever — and so you should you. This isn’t for a test. It’s for your own enjoyment (he does the same with movies apparently).

15. Be a Good (But Quiet) Family Man — Even though Tyler talks about all sorts of parenting stuff in his books, it really never occurred to me that he had kids until I heard him mention something about it on his podcast. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about his wife. I have a lot of respect for people who have families…but don’t parade them around like some trophy. He has a family, it’s important to him, but that’s his business. It’s how I try to live my life too.

16. Really Understand Other People’s Work — What you’ll hear when you listen to Tyler’s podcast is just how deeply he has set out to understand the work of the person he’s talking to. I think in some ways he understands the arc of the person’s career better than they do. This is a special skill. It requires getting out of your own head and actually thinking about someone else (that’s not something podcasts are known for…).

17. Read Eclectically — Another reading rule: Check out a couple of these most recent “What I’m Reading” posts from Tyler. Look at how diverse the subject matter is. Books about far right politics in Europe, the diary of a Stalin ambassador, histories of the Irish border, a book on the quartet of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Jay, and James Madison, one right after another.

18. Money Can Sap Motivation — In Discover Your Inner Economist, Tyler writes about how he tried to incentivize his step-daughter to do the dishes so he resorted to paying her, which got her to wash them — but it worked only for a week. “I knew this could happen. I understood that there is such a thing as intrinsic motivation and that if you pay people, you might weaken that. What I didn’t really get was the control issue. That when you start paying people to do a thing, they often see it as control.” (The story has a happy ending: She started washing the dishes for free after reading the book.)

19. Order Weird Stuff on the Menu — If the weird thing wasn’t good, goes his logic, the chef probably wouldn’t have been allowed to put it on there. Sure — I’ll buy it.

20. Don’t Be Afraid to Have a Partner — Tyler’s site, Marginal Revolution, has a co-writer named Alex Tabarrok. He’s the unsung hero of that site and many of his articles are longtime favorites of mine. You don’t have to do everything yourself. In fact, you should have intellectual and creative partners. It’s powerful.

21. Write The Opposing View — It’s not just enough to think about how other people might think. One of his more recent opinion pieces shows how far Tyler is willing to go when it comes to empathy: He suggests actually writing — as if it’s you — an article with someone else’s opinion. See if you can explain why Trump is doing this or that, or why your parents believe this or that. Feel those words coming through your fingers — do you understand them better? Are things less contentious? I love this idea.

22. How to Thoughtfully Disagree — I’ve read a lot of Tyler Cowen writing over the years. Tyler is smart, opinionated and contrarian. It occurs to me there is one thing I’ve never seen from Tyler: contemptuous dismissal of anyone else. That’s something I know I need to work on. I take things too seriously, I condescend, I speak with undeserved certainty. Meanwhile, Tyler entertains basically everything. He’s friendly even when he disagrees. He’s open-minded. It’s a great model for any aspiring thinker.

23. Think Rationally, Not Emotionally — Two interesting posts from Tyler stand out to me, both about Peter Thiel. One was after the Gawker lawsuit, where Tyler stripped the emotion out of the debate and just looked at how third party funding works and how common it is. Two, after Peter’s controversial comments in the New York Times about whether there is “too little” or “too much” corruption, Tyler actually tried to figure out what the guy was talking about (it’s actually kind of interesting). Point being: Don’t get caught up in outrage or emotions, earnestly try to figure stuff out.

24. Cultivate Young Smart People — Like I said, I don’t know Tyler, but he’s nice enough to occasionally answer my emails. I know he answers emails from people like Ben Casnocha and Cal Newport and I’m sure there are hundreds — if not thousands — of young people he’s helped over the years (students or otherwise). He doesn’t need to do this but he does. It’s paying it forward.

25. Watch One TV Show at a Time — Tyler has a great rule about not watching more than one big TV series at a time.

26. Don’t Offer to Work for Free — From Average is Over: “It doesn’t matter how flexible the wage is in the more complex, less brute force jobs. A manual worker who just shows up at your door is probably not someone you want to hire unless it is already part of a preexisting business plan with broad buy-in from your enterprise and your creditors. The worker might say, “I’ll lower my wage demands by thirty percent!” or, “I’ll work for nothing!” It usually won’t matter. The sad reality is that many of these workers you don’t want at all, even if the business plan involves additional labor. Some workers simply aren’t worth the trouble unless the demand for extra labor is truly pressing.”

27. Command Your Audience — I’ve become addicted to Tyler’s podcast. Aside from the conversations, a secondary pleasure is his command over the audience (‘I will cut you off.’ ‘We will be out of this room by 5pm.’) and his very specific questions. His confidence and directness was not something I expected to hear, but it’s impressive. I can’t tell you how many conferences I’ve been to where I wished for someone like that.

28. For Good Food, Go to The Suburbs — As Tyler writes in his rules for dining out, “I love exploring the suburbs for first-rate ethnic food. Many people consider suburbs a cultural wasteland, but I am very happy searching for food in Orange County, California; the area near San Jose; Northern Virginia, near D.C.; Somerville, Massachusetts; and so on. I don’t always pre-Google to find the best place, and I don’t keep tapping on my iPhone. I drive around and keep my eyes open for dining establishments likely to follow the economic rules for good, innovative, and affordable food.”

29. Ask: Do Your Actions Match Your Beliefs? — The Tyler post that has me thinking the most lately is something he said after the election of Donald Trump. A good portion of the country thought Trump was dangerously unfit for office and would enact terrible, destructive policies…yet the markets have steadily gone up. Why don’t we see more people acting on these beliefs? Why aren’t there more short sellers in the market? More doomsday preparations? His point: People love to talk but rarely match their actions with their beliefs. This is both a contradiction or a potential market opportunity. It’s made me re-examine my actions in regards to both.

I could keep going but it might start to seem weird. Besides, the other thing I’ve learned from Tyler is this: keep it short. Almost all his blog posts are pithy — sometimes just a few sentences long. Even his opinion pieces are tight and to the point. So I’ll end it here. If you want to learn from Tyler, go read his stuff. He’s the best.

LIFE – Useful Productivity Techniques

Photo by Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”

— Karen Lamb


Eight years ago, I accidentally stumbled upon the topic of productivity — without even knowing it.

I intended to find the most efficient and effective ways to finish the things I HAD to do, so I can have more time to do the things I WANT to do.

The reason I continued to explore this topic is rather simple — The skill of using your time efficiently is among the most crucial ones you can master.

There isn’t anything else in life (unless you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth) that can give you as much advantage and ability to design a life you want, so you can achieve the goals you have.

Over the years I intentionally continued to research and experiment with the best productivity systems successful people use and became pretty good at it.

By following this mindset and using various productivity techniques in different areas of my life — health, university, career, entrepreneurship, social life, adventure — I was able to get incredible results in each one of them.

However, it wasn’t until 2016, that I started my blog Zero to Skill, that I started writing on the topic.

Ever since, I’ve tried to share and showcase the most useful tips, hacks, rules, principles, systems, so you can use them on a daily basis to become more productive, and by default more successful — which means to increase your chance of accomplishing various goals.

Most of them are in The Ultimate Productivity Cheat Sheet.

But today, I wanted to select 10 of them which alone could provide you with the biggest leverage in life, as fast as possible.

Here they are, in the exact sequence that will give you compounded results.


1. Live a 24-Hour Life

“Carpe Diem (Seize the day).” — Horace

We, humans, are creatures of instant gratification, which means that we wantpleasure and results as soon as possible.

So, whenever you have a goal, you immediately start thinking about all of the tasks you need to do, and how long it will take you to finish each one of them.

You might even start taking action, but it often happens that you fall off the wagon because you don’t see results that fast, which additionally demotivatesyou to give it another go.

Instead of approaching it like this and having to kickstart your motivation every couple of weeks, I suggest that you set a goal you want to pursue, and then break it down into activities and habits that will help you accomplish said goal.

From then on, every morning you wake up, you should focus on the day ahead of you, to take action towards your goal(s), and achieve incrementalprogress.

Stop pondering about the past, and the mistakes you’ve made and failedattempts, and stop thinking about the future, and what will happen the next day, week or a month.


2. Commit to Your Health First

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Your day should begin here, but it doesn’t.

Most people are too busy to sleep well, create a healthy diet, or move enough.

The main reason we continue to neglect our health is that we don’t seeserious consequences right away, or even in weeks ahead, and this makes it more likely we’ll continue doing it.

To increase the level of your health, and by default the level of productivity, because you will be more energetic and focused, you need to make a deal with yourself.

No matter what happens in your life, HEALTH COMES FIRST — which means that you need to take care of yourself first before you engage in anything else.

There are only three things you need to keep in mind:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Create a healthy diet for yourself
  • Move more

Make small actions every day, and let the compound effect do its thing.


3. Develop a Morning Routine

“My morning routine definitely sets the tone for my day. If I’m rushed and stressed in the morning, that will carry through my workday.” — Tessa Miller

The moment you open your phone or step outside of your home, you allow the external stimuli to affect your mental state and how your day will further develop.

That’s why it’s crucial, and I will repeat it, it’s CRUCIAL, that you take control and set the tone you want for the rest of the day.

The best way to do that is by establishing a morning routine for yourself, which aims to make you alert, help you take care of your health, intellectual and spiritual growth and gives you a quiet time to focus on your biggest goal.

You do this by developing two types of habits:

  • Habits that can improve quality of your life in the present
  • Habits that can improve the quality of your life in the future

Ideally, you should focus to form habits that give you both — such as exercising, and by doing so, you will start seeing a change both in the present and the future.


4. Clarify Daily Priorities

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”- Stephen Covey

Having clarity on what exactly will you be working on that day, and in whatsequence you will complete each task, is probably one of the most important things that will help you stay focused and reduce possible distractions.

The main reason why this is important is because not knowing priorities, or just kinda knowing them, makes us random and it takes us a longer time to get to actual work.

Instead of having to decide on these things in the morning and losing preciouswillpower and decision-making ability, map it out the night before, with these questions:

  • What are my top priorities for tomorrow?
  • In what order will I complete each one of them?
  • How much time do I need to commit to each task?

Then, when you wake up, just look at the list, and start executing one priority at a time.


5. Block Time

“You will never ‘find’ time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.”

— Charles Buxton

Learning how to protect your time at all cost from possible time thieves is essential.

That’s why, when you define your priorities and how much time you need for each one of them, decide when in your schedule you want to commit a specific chunk of your time, to execute these priorities.

By dedicating a specific time to just one task, you “block off” your time (and your mind) from other interruptions and projects — that would otherwise demand your attention.

You will find that even three 60 minute blocks of actual work can deliver more results than a standard 8-hour workday — and sometimes even two.


6. Gamify the Process With The X Method

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. “

— Aristotle

Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

The majority of goals people pursue don’t require innate talent, or working a 12-hour a day — in most cases they lack old-fashion consistency.

This is where the X Method comes in handy since it’s probably the easiest, yet the most effective way to establish new behaviors or eliminate them.

All you need to do is take a big wall calendar that has an entire month on it, and place it somewhere visible.

For each day that you do the positive behavior or stay away from doing a negative one, you get to put a big X on that day.

This works well because, after a week or two, you’ll have a chain, and you’ll like seeing that chain of X’s, so much so that you will do almost everything you can to maintain it.

From that point on, your only job then becomes not to break the chain.

Don’t break the chain!


7. Crush Procrastination by Deconstructing Tasks

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.” — Don Marquis

Just like me, you probably have a problem with procrastination, or to be more specific, getting yourself to take action — not the actual work itself.

So, when you need to do something, and you start feeling that initial resistance, program yourself to break the task at hand into smaller pieces immediately, and just get yourself to do the first one in the sequence.

For example — Going to the gym — becomes:

  • Preparing your gym gear
  • Putting your clothes on
  • Leaving your home
  • Getting to the gym
  • Putting your gear on
  • Warming up
  • Doing each exercise set (this can be further broken down)
  • Stretching

In most cases, finishing the first task will trigger a momentum, and that will make it easier to complete the remaining mini-tasks, and by default theprimary activity you started with — which in this case is a successful gymsession.

And it all started with placing some gear in the bag.

Now, just take any task you tend to procrastinate on the most and apply this suggestion.


8. Fight off Four Types of Distractions

“Distractions destroy action. If it’s not moving towards your purpose, leave it alone.” — Jermaine Riley

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Everything around you is designed to steal your attention and with it your most valuable resource — time.

That’s why it’s essential to learn how to shield yourself and develop your ability to focus on command.

You will need to fight off four types of distractions, and below are various ways to deal with each one of them.

Mental Distractions

Consider mental distractions to be any thought unrelated to the task at hand.

One of the first ways you can regain mental clarity is to simply breathe, as it will help you center your thoughts — no matter how cliche it might sound.

Next to breathing, ask yourself following two questions:

  • What should my focus be?
  • Is this worth my time?

Questions are a great way to reach the logical part of our brain and let it find the right answers naturally.

The next thing you can do is meditation, which is a great way to refresh your mental state, and if nothing, just to zone out and catch your breath.

Physical/Environmental Distractions

When we are not as invested in the task at hand, we often act as CROWS; we look for anything shiny around us that will distract us from doing work.

That’s why you need to declutter your environment and make sure that you minimize physical distractions.

First, divide your workspace into a primary and a secondary work area.

From the primary, remove everything unessential, all the things you’re not using on a daily basis. All the things you use on a weekly/monthly basis should go to the secondary work area.

Those can be like books, cables, printer, photos, staplers, and other items you don’t use as often.

The fewer items are in your immediate proximity, the less you will be pulled away from the task at hand.

Digital Distractions

Once again, you can follow the rule of making it difficult to access something.

For your phone, I suggest you delete every app that doesn’t contribute any of your goals, and is just a waste of time. Then place the applications you use on a daily basis on your first screen, move everything else to the second and third screen — making it more difficult to access.

Whenever you work, place your phone out of the arms reach, and turn off the internet, so you don’t get notifications.

For your computer, you can install software called SelfControl (source) a free Mac application to help you avoid distracting websites, for Windows thealternative is Cold Turkey (source).

Or you can install extensions called StayFocusd (Source) or Gofuckingwork (source) — both are free and work well.

When it comes to emails and social media, I suggest you create rules for yourself to check them only at a specific time of the day.

I try to not to open social media apps at least first hour or two, and check emails twice a day, responding right away.

Social Distractions

Now, this is something you don’t have that much control over, but you can still do a couple of things that might help you reduce them.

First is to communicate your style of working to people, and expectations — this usually does the trick.

Secondly, you can use your headphones — even placing them on your ears will make people assume that you are not to be disturbed.


9. Trigger the State of Flow

“The happiest people spend much time in a state of flow — the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Photo by Daniil Avilov on Unsplash

Every person has been in the ZONE.

When you’re in there, nothing else exists, it’s just you and the task at hand.

What the majority of people seem to miss is that this state is something you can learn to trigger on command and develop a habit of using it on a daily basis.

However, first you need to look back and determine how you’ve entered the state of flow before, so that you can pinpoint the underlying pattern.

These questions might be useful here:

  • When is the last time I was in the zone?
  • Why was I so deeply focused?
  • What elements helped me reach that level of immersion?

For me, my laptop, a big screen in front of me, and music with a fast beat are enough to get me into the state of flow.

What works for you?


10. Evaluate Your Day

“Every evening, just before hitting the bed, I would ask myself: Have I earned the bread for the day?” — Zdravko, my late grandfather

We are often caught up in the everyday environment and the dynamic nature of our lives, so the time passes by faster than ever.

Because of this, it makes a lot of sense to continuously pull yourself back andevaluate how well you’ve executed your plan in the previous period, so you can improve it based on the insights you’ve gathered.

Try to make it a habit just before you go to bed. Take some time to evaluate your day and see what can you do better in the morning.

Also, every week you should set aside 30 minutes to analyze the previous week and plan out the next one.

The Real Key to Success


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We need to understand how we can present ourselves to the best advantage and to know what role the ego plays in our life. Your unknown is God, and the self is otherwise considered to be the known. But when you want to know what you have yourself, do you really know your self? Do you want to know your self? Have you worked to know your self? My self is very important to me. Yet this is the only thing which I ignore in my life. I want to be known as a doctor, as an attorney, or I want to be known as a business manager. Because I have never worked on my self. I have never introduced my self. I have never cared to represent my self. I do not identify with my self. I do not proportionately appropriate my self. I do not proportionately understand and distribute my self.  And still, I want to be very successful, myself.

I’ll tell you the mystery of life: life is not a mystery at all. It is a simple mastery of the Self. For example, if a problem comes to me, then I look at that problem with these guidelines: I have to work through this problem, I don’t have to confront it. I have to solve it. Then I ask myself – how will I solve it as the Siri Singh Sahib? How will I solve it as Yogi Bhajan? How will I solve it as Har­bhajan Singh? From which area has the problem come from? If it is a problem of Dharma, I don’t have to care whether I benefit or I lose. I have to solve that problem as the Siri Singh Sahib.

If it is a problem in the emo­tional or mental realms, I have to solve it as Yogi Bhajan. I don’t have to solve it with Dharma. Dharma is a path of the human. Those with emotional or mental problems are not yet human. A person does not know what the path is. I have to make a person human and then deal with the human. Therefore I have to deal with it as Yogi Bhajan.

If someone has a relationship with me as a father, then I am Harbhajan Singh. But, I am using the same ego to solve these different kinds of problems.

The other alternative is that a problem comes to you and you con­front it. The moment you confront the problem, either you win or you lose. That is called self-destruction. You don’t need to confront anything. It is not worthwhile, because every­thing moves. The problem will move. (You won’t move because your ego gets hung up.) But you can’t solve a problem by confronting the problem. Then it becomes a hassle and the neighbors will know about it and people will hear about it.

realkey1 (1)What is the secret of success? OPI OPM: Other People’s Intelligence and Other People’s Money. Your own intelligence cannot solve every problem. Your own intelligence is how you employ and successfully deploy the environment, the sur­roundings. That is OPI. Employ and deploy the surroundings. When you employ the surroundings, don’t involve yourself in it. Because it is not you in the problem, rather it is your interest in the problem. You should see that you get the high­est rate of interest, but it is not you.

Once I was asked if I wanted to have a certain inspector working under me or not. I questioned why I was being given an additional in­spector. I was told that nobody wanted to have him working under them. I agreed that I would take him, but I asked that inspector why the other officers did not want to have him working under them. He told me that other officers were threatened be­cause he was so sharp and efficient that they felt that their own jobs might be taken over by him. I decided to take him. I just outlined to him my area of responsi­bility. I told him that I would give him a specific area of my duty and he could take total charge of that area and do whatever he wanted to do with it. I can tell you that I never bothered with that work at all, and he came out perfect. Because he was very intelligent, very righteous, very honest and very sincere. You may get a good worker but it is rare to get a sincere worker.

Another example I want to share with you. I had a pesonal servant named Ramu. His job was just to serve me and personally attend to me. One day while I was eating with my friends he just came and picked up my plate. Then he brought me some other kind of food and served me. I understood his habits, but after a while I just called him to explain to these people why he made me eat something different? He said:

“Baba, you are not to eat this food because yesterday you worked very hard and this food is very delicious and you would definitely overeat. You are to go on duty in half an hour and you won’t be in a position to digest it, therefore, I am sorry, I couldn’t give you that food.” I said, “But, you never gave it to me, someone else gave it to me!” He added, “Another person is another person. I am responsible for what you eat.”

Now, as Americans you cannot tol­erate this kind of situation. Whereas, I have been trained that when we give somebody a duty or a responsi­bility and we find that person is loyal and honest, we totally do not inter­fere with that person. That is the way to use other people’s intelli­gence. But if you insist on playing it according to your ego, then you’ll be stabbed in the back. It doesn’t matter who you are. Because there is no security for that person. When he gives all of his intelligence to you, puts all of his loyalty at stake, is will­ing to devote himself to you and you still have the ego to limit him, that means that you can turn him upside down right in the middle of his work.

No human mind can tolerate this. The way you Westerners have been trained, you have learned to achieve something, but you can never maintain that thing. You can learn to maintain the same situation with a simple attitude. You can discuss with your ego and then begin to consider when this person is giving you trouble or when this staff is giv­ing you trouble. How can you use them trouble-free? That is what your ego is for. Whereas those who live by a hire and fire policy, they always get fired in the end.

realkey3The mind can go through a lot of changes. And the last and worst of all changes is when you deny your teacher the privilege to poke you. It is the worst of all because when your ego is inflated like an elephant, you need that needle in you. When you throw it away, you go astray and when an elephant goes astray it meets death

You should keep your ego to serve you. You should use your ego and direct it to just behave as if it is a servant. Ego is the biggest disease! But it also has the solution in it. In India, it is a common practice to take mercury (which is known to be a deadly poison if you take it raw into your system) and in the science of Ayurvedic medicine, to use it in al­most 80% to 90% of the cures. It is very effective, and very well recog­nized. In this way, poison becomes the cure. In the same way, you can go out and burn your skin in the sun and you can have skin cancer, or you can tan yourself and look healthy. How you use your ego is a technol­ogy. When you start living in your ego, then you will not grow.

I was reading the life of a person who started his professional life with one thousand dollars. He was a sur­geon and today he is a person worth forty million dollars. He was asked how he became so successful, and he said that he believed in benefit sharing. He would offer his employ­ees the opportunity to work out a situation for him and whatever in­come that would bring, he would offer to give them one-third of it. He never signed any contract because his people knew his word was a con­tract. The result was that he gave one-third but they gave it to him totally. He earned 66% more!

How rich you are has to be considered from the expense point of view. Richness is not considered from the income point of view. If your monthly expense is a thousand dollars but my expense is fifteen thousand dollars, you are fourteen thousand dollars richer than me. An economic fool is a person who measures his richness from income. An economic wise man, or economic wizard is one who measures his rich­ness from expenses. That is what rich people do. They go on a fixed income expense and then they kill them­selves. They become victims of heart attacks and no doctor can cure them. Because what should they do, if they have to maintain a standard of thirty thousand per month?

realkey4I know of one organization where for the last nine years it has made three hundred to four hundred mil­lion dollars in a year. Their bud­get was fixed at seven hundred mil­lion a year. Then for the last two years, they were making only two hundred million a year. So there is a budget difference of five hundred million a year and they do not know what to do. They are selling their equipment, they are selling their land, selling this, selling that and they’re in bad shape. One of their employees who is my student called me and asked me how to man­age himself. I told him that it is very simple. If I make ten cents, I spend one. If I make one dollar, I spend ten cents. When I have ten dollars in my pocket, I only know that I have a dollar. I consider the other nine dol­lars as OPM, Other People’s Money. Out of every ten dollars, one dollar is mine, and nine dollars are to main­tain what is mine. For every one dol­lar you require nine dollar to main­tain the grace of one dollar. Do you know this law of economic expansion?

If you represent yourself with the image that you are ten dollars rich, somebody will ask to use it for one hour, and you’ll give it, and then you’ll stand at a bus stand and the driver will not let you on because you don’t have a penny. It’s called “showing off.”

In India, in economics we call it “balloon-talk”. Balloon talk is a con­versation where you present your account multiplied or exact. Even suppose you speak the truth, that you earn fifty thousand dollars a year. The fact is that you don’t make fifty thousand dollar a year, because in America, if you make one hundred thousand in California, you earn ex­actly thirty-nine thousand. Exactly.

realkey5Now you can wangle it, you can multiply it, you can play around, but when you’re dead, your estate will be found in the estate shop on Beverly Blvd. Why does that happen? Because the children are asked to pay the Estate Tax, and they don’t have it. So, they sell the estate and get rid of it. Or, they make a founda­tion. Paul Getty’s family cannot take a statue from his estate. You can in­vest in your self, or you can invest in your name. Paul Getty would have been very fine, if he had in­vested and made his own body a museum where at least he would have gone running on the beach once a week.

Just decide. Sit down and ask your self what you want to be. Do you want to be a healer? If you want to be a healer, let God heal through you. If you want to be a dealer, then go on, pushing this, pushing that, trying this button, trying that button. Every profession has buttons.

Your presentation, your art of presentation, your secret of presen­tation, lies in one fact: you must not confront the energy, you must circu­late the energy. What is God? Every­thing is circulated. Earth revolves. It revolves on its axis. The whole galaxy, the other stars, the sun moves around other suns. It’s far out and it’s nothing but movement! It keeps going! And your success is, keep going! Don’t stop anywhere, for any reason. Don’t say good-bye. The only good thing is to don’t say “good­bye.” Just say “bye.” Perhaps some­day you’ll need that person. Because what will keep the energy going? It is the movement of your thought form, and the movement of your mind and thought and the move­ment of your solving the problems, and your movement penetrating through the problem. How can you do it? If you know that you HAVE to do it.

Anything and everything, logical­ly, psychologically, socially, commo­tionally, emotionally, personally, collectively, individually, is nothing but you completing the circuit.

realkey6What is required to be learned by you is the Self. Because the Self is the solution of your environment. It’s the hub. It is the axle. It is everything. The fact is that you have to understand that you can’t fall in love with a girl, you can’t fall for anything, before knowing yourself, and knowing what you are fall­ing for! If you do not know how to swim, yourself, and you jump in eighteen feet of water, you will drown. But if you get into four feet of water and you are two feet above the water, you can make it. To become commotional, emo­tional, get into turmoil, and not care for things, not to listen to advice, and not to wait for truth, though it is bitter and it hurts, is to cause a problem. Multiple prob­lems are like multiple sclerosis. There’s no solution for it.

The law of diminishing return is that you can handle X amount of problems. There’s a relationship between play and work. Work and play have a relationship which is propor­tionate. For X amount of work, you need X amount of play. For X amount of play, you need X amount of work. If they are out of balance, then you are out of balance and you’ll never be a successful person.

Please remember that without Self consciousness you cannot properly present yourself. And without Self knowledge you cannot have Self consciousness.

Copyright The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan 

THINK OF CHANGE

The Ultimate Guide to Embracing Change

Change is a concept that most people fear or reject. The mere thought of adopting a new perspective can leave you feeling overwhelmed and helpless.

Despite the unwanted stress that change may bring into your life, it is also a source of growth, fulfillment, and new opportunities. Hence, no matter how much you try to resist, change will always come knocking at your door. The question is — will you let it in?

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got,” — Henry Ford

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are forced to change ourselves.” — Victor Frankl

Here’s a quick guide to help you conquer your fear of change and have the strength to cope with challenges. Soon, you will be prepared for the bigger things and greater rewards that life has to offer.

Think long-term

According to Elon Musk, change is necessary if you are to avoid serious problems further down the road. Often, change is something that we don’t easily accept because we don’t want to face the difficulties that come along with it. For instance, the mere thought of having to integrate a fitness routine into your daily schedule can feel overwhelming. It is tempting to just spend your time with a TV show or any number of other entertainment options.

If you analyze and dig deeper, you’ll find that the struggle only exists when you are thinking. Your own mind is holding you back because it fails to see how the long-term results will benefit to you. Once you are already engaged in something new, the pain or discomfort will only last a few minutes or hours. The effects will be lasting and powerful enough to make a huge difference in your life.

View it as a gift

Learn to think of change as a gift that you can give yourself. Much like a gift received from someone else, it’s something that should excite you, tickle your curiosity, and bring delight. You would not think twice about unwrapping a holiday present — you are eager to discover what’s inside.

Similarly, in life, don’t think twice about unwrapping change because it may open up great opportunities for you to improve and become a better version of yourself. The experience might not always be pleasing, as it stretches your limits, but the result will be rewarding.

In the world of finance, investing is a gift that you can give yourself, once you are able to commit to it. It may be a journey of ups and downs, but remain steady and stick to your plan. Inevitably, your hard-earned money will compound into a much-deserved financial reward.

Turn anxiety into productivity

“You don’t have to hold yourself hostage to who you used to be.” -Oprah Winfrey

At times when you are challenged to go above and beyond your normal routine, turn to an activity that will convert your anxiety into productivity. You will prevent negative thoughts from becoming overpowering. For instance, imagine that you are being considered for a new position at work and you aren’t 100% confident that you can handle the job. Instead of overthinking the outcome, focus on how you can improve your performance now. Use those results as a personal gauge to determine whether you’re sufficiently prepared for the new challenge.

Use your brain to your advantage by not letting negativity into your system. Sometimes, you just need to distract your mind for a while, so you can see the big picture and avoid fixating on negative thoughts.

Summary

Learn to use your brain to your advantage by looking forward to the long-term benefits of accepting change. It will never be easy, but once you’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone and on to greater things, you will thank your ‘past self’ for making the life-changing decision of embracing change. Know that adjustments need to be made so that you can fulfill your potential as an individual.

TRUTHS ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS

The expression “naked truth” comes from a fable in which Truth and Falsehood went bathing.

Falsehood went and dressed in Truth’s clothes, and Truth, refusing to take another’s clothes, went naked.

When there’s conflict in your life, you don’t make good decisions.

You don’t sleep well, and you end up stressed. You obsessively check your phone waiting for a response. Your mind isn’t in whatever it is you’re doing because you’re too busy weighing pros and cons, playing “what if.”

Relationships have a far greater impact on our pursuits and responsibilities than we might want to comfortably admit. We like to pretend that we can consolidate and separate, but the truth is that’s very, very hard. The best leaders know how to manage their emotions and push through, but that doesn’t mean they are still operating at peak performance. And with that, even the best leaders can only go so long without needing to either take a step back or make a drastic change.

Relationships, whether they be intimate or friendly, can be draining if not nurtured and taken care of properly.

1. Your Relationship Affects Your Mood

Bad mood, bad productivity.

If you’re upset, you are going to be upset with your work. If you’re anxious, you’re going to have trouble focusing. If you’re sad, you are going to struggle to be energetic with your pursuits. That’s just how it goes.

So it’s your responsibility to take care of the relationships in your life, and be diligent about resolving issues that arise in the moment — instead of letting them linger.

2. Clear Expectations Need To Be Set

Relationships tend to falter because of one fundamental issue: unmet expectations.

If you set the bar low, and you deliver on that expectation, you still win. If you set the bar high and don’t deliver, you are far worse off. Part of maintaining a positive relationship (with anyone) is setting clear expectations — especially with intimate partners. Do not make it seem like they are the center of your world when you are trying to launch a startup and working 18 hour days.

Make that clear from the beginning.

3. Deception Never Lasts

Who you are is who you attract.

And if you are attracting people into your life by being your false self, then at some point the jig is going to be up. You can only maintain that “alter ego” for so long — and when it crumbles, it’s going to hurt you far worse than if you had just been honest from the beginning. (This can apply to any number of things. Apply as you see fit.)

4. A Relationship Can Be A Support System

A relationship as an entrepreneur, business owner, or just plain driven individual can be one of the most helpful things you could possibly have.

They are someone you can confide in, with no connection to your otherwise complicated and logical pursuits. However, the thing to be wary of is to not make the other person feel like an “object” you use to vocalize all your stress and challenges.

There has to be some give and take.

5. An Outsider’s Perspective

When your friends, family, and significant other all live outside your direct realm of business or interest, they inherently provide an outsider’s perspective that many times can be helpful.

They ask simple questions, they provide you an opportunity to explain what you’re working on in its most basic form, and they can often point things out you aren’t able to see yourself (because you’re “in it”).

6. Relationships Are Mirrors

This is often one of the hardest things for people to admit.

Whatever you dislike in someone else, you struggle with yourself. Whatever irks you the most, that’s your issue — not theirs. Whatever frustrates you, or pushes your buttons, or makes you flare up in anger, that is a trigger of something inside you. If it wasn’t, then their actions wouldn’t affect you at all. Period.

When something triggers you, it’s your responsibility to take the time to figure out what that issue is and move past it.

This article originally appeared on Inc. Magazine.

Horrible Habits That Are Ruining Your Productivity

If there is one thing in life people underestimate, it is the impact of their daily habits.

Whether you want to admit it or not, the truth is that just about everything in life can be directed back to your habits. Long-term success is the result of good habits. Positive relationships are the result of good habits. Improvement and growth are the result of good habits. Even personal health and wellness can be traced back to the foundation set by your daily habits.

That said, if you are guilty of any of these habits, you need to eliminate them immediately.

Because even if they don’t seem like a glaring issue right now, they will be.

1. Constantly Checking Your Phone

Let’s skip the cliché here.

The real reason you need to stop constantly checking your phone is because it instills probably the worst habit you could possibly acquire: distraction. People don’t realize that 99 percent of the time they check their phone because they want to avoid thinking. They get confronted with some sort of task or obstacle, and out of impulse they check their phone instead. It’s a distraction.

Instead, try to catch yourself when your impulse is to reach into your pocket to refresh your email again. There’s nothing new there — and even if there is, it can wait.

2. Not Really Listening

There are two kinds of listeners.

The first is the person who sits opposite you, quiet, and is intently following every word you say. They are connected to the conversation, and diligently following your thoughts along with you.

The second is the person who sits opposite you, quiet, and isn’t really listening at all. What they’re doing is rambling on and on in their head with their own inner dialogue. They are thinking about something else. They are wondering what they’re going to say next. They are absent from the moment.

Don’t be that second person. Listening is an art — and in order to do it, you need to keep your head clear and be focused on the conversation at hand. Why? Because nothing kills productivity faster than having to say, “I’m sorry, I zoned out for a second — what did you say?”

3. Multitasking

I don’t care how amazing you think you are at multitasking. It’s not a thing.

If you don’t believe me, try taking a sip of water out of a glass with one hand while typing with the other. You’ll catch yourself taking a tiny sip and then typing. Or typing and then taking a sip. Multitasking is not “doing two things at once.” It’s “trying to do two things really close to each other.” And it is never as effective as concentrating on a single task. Ever.

People who multitask lack any clear focus on the task at hand. Their attention is divided. So even if they get two things “done,” neither one of them will be of much quality.

Instead, do one thing at a time — or even better, “clump” similar tasks together. Look for things that share common elements, find your flow, and crank them out. For example: Look at all the emails you have to respond to and devote an hour to answering them. Don’t respond to an email, then try to work on a proposal, and then call your friend back, and then go back to emails, etc. It will exhaust you.

4. Working With the Television On

I realize certain things work for certain people, but I have never found a secondary input to be very productive.

Having noise (or even a visual distraction) on in the background does your productivity no good. Really good work happens when you find your flow — and in order to get in that zone, you have to be quiet (shhh…). It’s almost like a meditation. This is where you lose track of time, pick your head up, and realize four hours has gone by. And if you notice, when you get in that zone, you forget the television was even on at all. So why have it on in the first place?

Turn off all distractions. Find your flow.

5. Working in Unproductive Environments

One of the places where I work frequently here in Chicago is Soho House — and when I travel, I tend to prefer working out one of Soho House’s other spaces.

However, I’ll be the first to admit that there are certain rooms (and times of day) in which productivity is absolutely not happening. Like Sunday brunch. Sounds great in theory, right? Open up your laptop. Grab a table nearby. But when you’ve got a house packed full of people, that energy can mean death to your productivity.

Too many times, people think they can be productive in environments that are not built for getting things done. But they try! They want to feel like they’re “being productive” while at the same time “being social.” Rarely do the two go hand-in-hand.

Find a quiet space of your own and get to work. When you’re done, you can go hang out.

6. Working With Unproductive People

Another huge mistake people make is thinking that getting together with a bunch of friends for a “work session” is going to be remotely productive.

Let me note: There are times when this works. However, the only times I have found this to work effectively are when everyone is working together on something. For example: Maybe you’re all working on a short film together. Or all brainstorming on design ideas for a website. Great! Everybody is engaged, and that’s productive.

But at a certain point, the project will require “grind time.” The fun stuff (brainstorming) is a very small piece of the larger puzzle. Everyone is going to have tasks or things they need to get done, and the truth is, everyone just needs to crank. In silence.

When you have a lot to work through, you need your own space. You can be in the same room with other people, but everyone has to understand it’s work time. It’s not “hey, let’s all hang out and sort of do stuff” time. There is a difference.

So round up your friends. Tell everyone to bring headphones. Sit around a table and grind together. And after two hours, take a little break.

7. Lack of Preparation

I love when people say, “This Sunday, I am going to be so productive,” when they haven’t put any time or effort into the thing they need to get done for days, or weeks, or even months.

Realize that if you do not sit down prepared, you won’t be productive. If you haven’t touched your project in weeks, it’s going to take you a bit to remember where you are and what you need to get done. Or maybe you’ve forgotten how to use a certain program. Or your skills have gotten dull — and it takes you some time to sharpen them again.

Productivity isn’t just about the moment. It’s about all the moments that lead up to that moment. Your productivity increases over time through consistency. So, even if it’s just 10 or 15 minutes a day, make that time so your skills don’t get dull and whatever you’re working on stays top of mind.

8. Notifications…OFF!

And of course, the famed but so casually ignored culprit known as “notifications.”

It’s astounding to me how many people say (as if announcing to the world), “Time to grind!” and then, before the sentence has even left their mouth, their eyes are darting to the top right corner of their laptop because two texts, a tweet, a calendar invite, and an alert from Facebook all popped up at the same time.

If you want to get anything of value done, turn off your notifications.

Turn. Off. Your. Notifications.

Why do you think people enjoy vacationing in the middle of nowhere?

Why do you think everyone travels across the world to seek peace and quiet?

Because they think the only time they can afford to turn off the notifications in their life is when they retreat to a foreign beach, or a forest, or a prized vacation spot.

Guess what…?

You can find that peace and quiet anytime, anywhere.

All you have to do is turn off your notifications — and nobody can disturb you!

This article originally appeared on Inc. Magazine.