My Life Advice for My Past Selves (at 25)

  • How you choose to arrange the content of your life – i.e.: who you associate with and what you do with your spare time – is less important to how you are perceived by others than how confident you are in these choices. Personal coherence and integrity is more important than interpersonal commonality.
  • Defining yourself by uncommon virtues is the best way to cultivate a healthy distance from the judgments of others.
  • Making a fool of yourself to impress others is a race to the bottom that you cannot win.
  • Don’t be so quick to label an act of someone else as a betrayal.
  • When a new theory contradicts common sense, try to test it in an environment as isolated as possible.
  • 95% of skill acquisition is entelchy: the art and strategy of turning theory into practice.
  • Wage war against disrespect. I am referring here to cases where another person’s actions are either intrinsically harmful to you or they are the kinds of actions that, if sanctioned by you, would set a negative precedent for others. Life in a world where others never respect your personal boundaries would be hardly worth living.
  • Just like a good social game will always trump a good strategic game on Survivor and Big Brother, a contrived gameplan for new social situations is vastly inferior to being genuinely interested in other people. Be Dan Gheesling or Derrick Levasseur, not Russell Hantz.
  • Without some long-term vision of the action you will be taking, or an overwhelming desire for something, what you are experiencing is not life.
  • You can’t be half a gangster. If a goal is important enough to you, you should have the capability of putting yourself on Death Ground in order to achieve it.
  • Successful enterprises and ventures are almost always predicated on an edge. Markets breed competition, and thus, necessitate that you are better than your competition on some dimension. The more important the dimension(s), the better situated you are. If you do not have an edge in any important dimension, quit and do something else. Or rebuild.
  • Your life story is supremely interesting…to yourself. But for the love of God, do not make it the sole topic of conversation when you are on a date.
  • Confidence – qua attractive attribute – is an emotion, not an abstract belief-state. It is a kind of natural stubbornness that is needed in order to crystallize rational thoughts into deeply-held convictions.
  • A philosophy that tells you that it is more selfish for somebody else to have your money is a confused philosophy.
  • The desire to be a different kind of person – to have a different essence, so to speak – is misguided. There is no special substratum of character; what appears to be so can always be broken down to habitual behaviours and attitudes. Adopt new behaviours and attitudes, become a new person.
  • Conceptually, truth is not merely that which works. But once you have a plan or a goal, you are only pursuing truth for its utility.
  • First, learn to transcend the negative feelings associated with losing or failing, like the Stoics were able to. But once you have this mastered, the next step is to reacquire the orgiastic thrill of victory and the gut-wrenching agony of defeat – insofar as these are conducive to a goal that you are seeking. And both matter equally.

Excerpt from “The Weakest of the Great Men of All Time”

This article by Sebastian Marshall really inspired me, so I wanted to share parts of it here. You can read the full article here.


A few years back, I was getting complacent. I was a successful entrepreneur, in the top 1% for my age. Whenever I compared myself to people similar to me, it wasn’t even close. I worked more, accomplished more, produced more, did more meaningful things, was traveling the world. I read more books, did more writing, was generally healthier and more disciplined, spent my time well. I was the top 1% for my age, and even better than that if you measured me against people from similar backgrounds.

I think it’s easy for people who are doing great to get complacent. You look at the general sloth and laziness and complacency of most people, you see that you’re achieving greatly, and you feel like you’re so far above that. You give yourself a pat on the back. “Ah, yes, I’m doing great!”

I had a shift. I don’t remember the exact day, but one day I thought to myself –

“I’m not going to compare myself against people my age any more. I’m going to start comparing myself to the greatest men of all time.”

Instantly, I’d gone from top 1% of my peer group (people near my age, self-made, alive today), to the bottom 1% of the greatest people of all time. I started looking at Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Tokugawa, Meiji, Augustus, Trajan, Socrates, Aristotle, Confucius, Wellington, Rockefeller, Rothschild, Medici, Zhuge, Sejong, Salah, Shah Jahan, and so on.

Suddenly I was not doing excellent; in fact, I was behind schedule. In fact, I realized entirely that the path I was on did not lead to where I was capable of going.

He goes on to say,

People like to be better than those around them and better than their peers. I was, I really was. I was traveling the world and working on hard problems while most people my age were out drinking beer at parties with other kids. I was playing on a level far above my peers – but what was the difference in how much I built? Going from being top 1% to top .9% – is this working breaking your back and straining for? Is it inspiring, going to be even better than the lazy, complacent children I was comparing myself to? Most young people these days have no real dreams, no strong ethics, no strength. They stand for nothing, they want nothing, they do nothing. Just by trying, even a little bit, you wind up better than most of them.

And it’s easy to stop there, have a nice life, be very well off. Not me. You see, I have friends, colleagues, acquaintances who are amazing people, who I am honored to serve and associate with. But I don’t have any peers. I don’t know anyone who wishes to build as much as I do, who want to do as much as I do, who want to serve as much as I do, who want to be strong as I aspire to become.

I’m calm in this right now. It’s not defiance, it’s not a mighty roar. If anything, it is more like a shrug of the shoulders. Yes, I will become excellent. Because, why not become excellent?

But it wasn’t that way at first. The way we mentally evaluate ourselves, our identity – it has such a huge impact on how we think, how we feel, and what we do. Taking myself mentally out of the top 1% and dropping myself into the bottom 1% – do you know how sickening that feels? Maybe you can imagine it intellectually, maybe, but I doubt I could show you what the emotions feel like. One day, I am feeling good, comfortable, happy, I am achieving and I am proud of my achievements, I am doing better than anyone would have thought possible for me, and doing well by anyone’s standards. The next day, I am feeling neurotic, uncomfortable, unhappy, pressed for time, having achieved nothing of what I need to do yet.

I [was] on the bottom of the ladder – no, worse than that, I [was] on the top of the wrong ladder.