Here’s more stuff I’ve learned that has considerably improved my life:
1) The strength in any relationship is based on a person’s willingness to walk away
Relationships are tough. Some are 50/50 because they’re based on mutual understanding; others are one-sided and selfish. The ability to walk away means that you’re only willing to do something on your own terms or not do it at all. This is applicable to all kinds of relationships: personal or business.
If you’re a man who’s in a relationship with a woman and she isn’t treating you right, but you’re unwilling to speak up and walk away, then guess who’s in control of the relationship? It’s not you, that’s for sure. Moreover, she knows that you don’t have much self-respect and boundaries and will have no reason to stop abusing the relationship. She won’t change. It’ll probably get worse. That’s just human nature.
The willingness to walk away doesn’t mean that you’re always threatening to walk away should any problem arise, it just means you have enough self-respect to not be stuck if the relationship isn’t furnishing you with much value. It’s a question of self-respect, nothing more, nothing less.
2) To understand a person, figure out their greatest struggles
Humans exist on this planet to solve problems. These problems can range anywhere from creating an atomic bomb to playing computer games all day to showing up to a mall to snatch goods on Black Friday—and anywhere in between. Learn what issues/problems a person is concerned with and you’ll understand what the person is about.
It’s important to be solving problems. Problems start when one doesn’t have viable problems to solve. Then the person starts creating problems where there aren’t any. Problems that didn’t exist. Superficial problems. And when a person doesn’t have real, meaningful problems, that’s when the trouble begins.
3) Don’t complain
I used to think that complaining was a way to voice my discontent to someone when you don’t like what they’re doing. But then I understood that complaining is really about a person’s internal psychology. People complain when they care about something too much when they shouldn’t. Complaining is different from criticism.
At various points in my life, I’ve had friends that pissed me off. It was all kinds of things, usually something about their behavior or actions. But then I realized that I was basically complaining about something that irritated me and me only. My friends were fundamentally good and friendly (that’s why they were my friends), and often their behavior didn’t irritate others. Once I decided to stop caring and taking all that personally, I stopped complaining.
On the other hand, if something bothers you so much to the point of endless complaining (e.g., living in America), then you’re only other option is to move somewhere else (or get a new friend). In any case, complaining is a sign that you’re either letting something bother you more than it should or too weak to make a change—or both.
4) People don’t say or do anything by accident
Behind every word or action is an important motivation. I once had a girlfriend that did nice things for me with the expectations that I would do something in return. Her actions weren’t unconditional—they were conditional. Looking back at the relationship, all I remember is her doing something but then immediately asking for something in return (usually more expensive). In hindsight it’s clear what her motivations were, but it only became obvious once you zero in on her motivations behind the actions instead of purely on the actions.
To understand people, don’t just study their actions, but study why they do something and not something else. That’s how you learn what people truly want. It takes some practice to think this way, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
5) Stay modest and humble
Have you ever had a friend who disagreed with everything you say or acts as though he knows everything on every subject even though he’s not even remotely qualified or has no experience? Someone who instead of listening to someone else’s opinion, always proclaims the superiority of his own?
Yes, and that gets old quick, doesn’t it? Well, it’s called dogma—the belief that you’re always right—regardless of the topic and it’s a very dangerous belief because it’s impossible to be right about everything all the time.
One of the most powerful phrases in the English language is, “I don’t know.” Another one is, “I don’t understand.” It shows that you’re humble and modest, and are willing to expand your knowledge by learning from someone else. Or, as one important Greek philosopher said, “The more you know, the more you know how much you don’t know.”
These days, when everyone is trying to do out one another, it takes a certain level of strength and courage to admit that you just don’t know something. That gives you an opportunity to learn something new, something that you didn’t know before, instead of pretending that you know just to impress someone.
6) It’s much better to be loved by few than so-so liked by many
Anyone who stands for anything is inherently polarizing. If you like Trump, you’ll have lots of company but also lots of haters. Trump, himself, is super polarizing. Same if you like Hillary. The worst case scenario is when you don’t really stand for anything while trying to be liked by everyone.
This is something that “nice guys” chronically suffer from. They are like chameleons, constantly altering their personalities to be liked by others, instead of finding people to like them simply for who they are. The result is a person who’s inherently dishonest with 1) who he is and 2) his needs and motivations. And, what happens when you try to be liked by everyone? Right: you end up not being noticed by anyone. A recipe for a mediocre life.
7) Your problems/concerns/issues/dilemmas are shared by millions of other people
Think your problem is unique? Think again. Sure, your issues are personal and, at first, appear like you’re the only person in the world who experiences them. But the reality is that we’re all sort of trying to get through life in the dark, blindfolded. Even the guys that seemingly have all their shit together experience this.
Think the fact that your third business has plateaued makes your problem special? Think the fact that you just can’t finish an article or a book makes your problem unique? Think the fact that you can’t get more traffic to your blog makes your problem special?
The reality is that we all go through problems and issues. All of us. The “unique” problems I’m having are shared with millions of other guys. There’s actually nothing unique or special about them.
It’s just some people are better at hiding their concerns and problems than others. Some people make decisions quicker than others (with the same information). But we all suffer the same problems. Not having problems or struggles means you’re not really living.
8) Everything is built on self-reflection and honesty
Everything must be built off your true, honest and real self. So, if you’re 45 and still living with your mom (i.e., for financial reasons), and hating it, then everything else will suffer. The same goes for if you’re working at some job that you hate. When such a fundamental part of your life is broken, you can forget about having meaningful friendships or relationships, regardless how many cheesy pickup lines you know.
Authenticity and honesty is the only way. If you’re job sucks and your boss is a dick, transition to a job that makes you happy or ditch the 9-5 slavery bullshit altogether and build your own business that’s based off your passions and interests. Not only will you be happier, but everything else will slowly fall into place.
This also means you’ll attract different kinds of people. Rest assured it’ll be people that will like you for who you are and not for what you can do for them.
9) Life is a series of experiments
Always critically question your actions. If something isn’t working and you’re suffering and banging your head against the wall, ask yourself: “is what I’m doing matters?” “Do people care?” Even though you may care and generally enjoy what you’re doing, that doesn’t necessarily matter that others do. For example, while I have many interests and hobbies, I realize that not everyone will be interested in many of them, so I stick to just those that provide the maximum value. If in doubt, stop doing something and see if anyone notices your absence. That’s how you know if you’re making a real difference in people’s lives.
Popular wisdom says, “Never give up,” but that’s actually quite terrible advice. If something isn’t working, then you must change course and try something else—even if it means “giving something up.”
Ask yourself: what’s better, “Saying that you never gave up or making a million dollars in a different business?” I personally know which one I would pick. Always experiment and iterate. If there’s a motto that I really like, it’s “Always experimenting.” This is how you should think about your projects and ideas—and life in general.
10) When faced with a tough dilemma, solicit advice, but ultimately make your own decision
I’ve had many situations in my life where I needed to solicit advice from close and not so close friends (usually taxi drivers). The advice they gave me was sound and honest. There was just one problem: it was based of their own experiences and their own lives. Those who were super adamant of doing it one way were also those who learned their lessons the very hard way.
And because I didn’t have the experience, I was still unsure of what to do. Of course, choosing to do something that some people recommended against didn’t necessarily guarantee that I will get burned or screwed up. There was a risk, sure, but it’s a risk I needed to experience myself in order to understand. The possibility was good that everything would work out fine.
Ultimately, what I learned that I needed to do was take responsibility for my actions and make my own decision. I needed to block everyone out and build the life that I wanted and then duly deal with the consequences. I needed to go at it alone. In fact, that’s actually why people keep soliciting advice in the first place: they are afraid to take responsibility for their own decisions.
So, feel free to talk to people and learn what they would do if they were in your shoes. Learn about the different outcomes. But at the end, the dilemma has to be solved by you and no one else. After all, it’s your life, and you must decide how you want to live it. You have to take responsibility for the decision and deal with the consequences. That’s how you build your own, unique experience. Then, you can look back and give others advice.
After traveling around the world for the past ten years, I’ve gotten pretty good at picking up foreign languages very quickly. This Friday, I’m releasing my complete video course on language hacking. The goal isn’t fluency, but accelerated learning so that you can become conversational very quickly. Stay tuned for more information.
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James Maverick used to work in a cubicle as a code monkey in Silicon Valley. Then, in 2007, he quit his job and a one-way ticket to Brazil. Ever since, he continued to travel, visiting over 85 countries and living in more than a dozen of them. He loved his location-independent lifestyle and has no plans to live in America.