30 Sep 10 (Short) Sentences I Use To Lead A Happy Life
A few months ago, I read this brilliant article by my friend Nate: There’s Always Money In The Banana Stand: 10 Short Sentences I Use To (Basically) Run My Entire Life.
In short, it’s a collection of phrases he’s learned from friends and strangers that regularly influence his day to day decisions. He formatted the article by writing what the phrase is, followed by the source he got it from, his interpretation of the phrase, and how he puts it into practice.
I’ve re-read it multiple times because it had that much of an impact on me. The last time I revisited it, I made a decision then and there to create my own version of Nate’s article.
I did this to serve a few purposes:
1) To say thanks to Nate
2) To think critically about my own values, then write about them
3) To pay it forward, in hopes of inspiring others like Nate did for me
But before we jump in, I did add one more detail that wasn’t in Nate’s original article. (I had to at least give it a little bit of a twist, you know?)
You’ll see “BOCTAOE:” at the end of most sections. When people put out ideas, there are always others who feel the need to list every obvious exception. This acronym coined by Mr. Scott Adams is a preemptive response to internet nitpickers, which stands for “But Of Course There Are Obvious Exceptions.” With this, I wanted to genuinely attempt to push back against my own thoughts. It was hard on my ego, but kept me honest and gave you a more well-rounded answer.
So, yeah, now that that’s covered, I hope you enjoy this collection of ideas and hope even more that it inspires you to consider making a list of your own.
But as if I couldn’t blow him any harder than I have already, let’s begin with the man himself…
“What if nothing was truly at stake here? What if improving your experience of the world was seen as a form of play, with no winners or losers?”
Source: Nate Green
My interpretation: We are all going to die. At some point in time, someone is going to say our name for the last time. This is not subjective. So, knowing that, why are we spending so much time at war with ourselves, or with others? Why are we drowning in our own anxieties and expectations? Why do we think we have so much to lose? The truth: there is no pressure. Relax. Play!
Practice: When I’m feeling down and like the world is against me, I have to snap myself out of it. Some people may use a gratitude practice or self affirmations, but, for me, repeating this quote works better. Contemplating death can be liberating.
BOCTAOE: This is a privilege to think this way. Try telling a single mom of three kids that there is no pressure and nothing to lose.
“Do less, but better.”
Source: Greg McKeown
My interpretation: We don’t want to get more things done, we want to get the right things done. We want to invest our time and energy where it matters most, giving us the highest possible output. Then, once we determine what’s most important, how can we regularly execute that with minimal effort? This is about trimming the fat in our lives through subtraction, not addition.
Practice: In business, this means working 5 hours per day with laser-like focus, instead of 8 hours per day with constant distraction. In fitness, this means taking action on the 20% that gives us 80% of the results ⏤ portion control, progressive overload, tracking our progress, etc. In everyday life, this means getting rid of shit (and relationships) we don’t need, investing money in low-risk/high-reward places, and buying minimal, but high quality material possessions.
BOCTAOE: Knowing the “right” things to work on takes time, experience, and knowledge. People in the early stages of figuring this out need to say yes to (almost) everything and work their asses off, but this advice could be used as an excuse to be lazy or avoid risk.
“Make your world small.”
Source: Andy Stumpf, Navy SEAL
My interpretation: Andy was on Joe Rogan’s podcast recently and told an incredible story about being a Navy SEAL instructor. He’s obviously gone through the SEAL training himself, but now as an instructor he gets to ask questions to upcoming trainees—trainees who’ve given up their entire life to earn their spot as a SEAL—why they decided to quit the BUD/S training. He said the answer he would get time and time again was not because of the brutal physical tasks, or the ice cold water, or any of that—the reason they quit was because they got overwhelmed. The pressure of everything at once, mentally and physically, got to their heads and they decided to give up. He said, “They didn’t learn how to keep their world small. Because there’s two ways you can look at BUD/S training: It’s 180 days long. Or, it’s a sunrise and a sunset, 180 times.”
Practice: This advice has been a game changer for my 1-on-1 online coaching clients when they’re feeling overwhelmed after getting off track. They want to focus on making the week as perfect as possible, but I just reply back with, “That’s great. But what’s for dinner tonight?” I tell them to focus on the next five minutes… then I tell them to pretend to be a Navy SEAL and stop being such a pussy. (Just jokes, don’t cancel me.)
BOCTAOE: Being short-sighted can make you vulnerable to long-term risks. Planning further ahead can allow you to play out different scenarios that may or may not work, mitigating failure down the road.
“Fast, lift, sprint, stretch, and meditate. Build, sell, write, create, invest, and own. Read, reflect, love, seek truth, and ignore society. Make these habits. Say no to everything else. Avoid debt, jail, addiction, disgrace, shortcuts, and media. Relax. Victory is assured.”
Source: Naval Ravikant
My interpretation/Practice: I think Naval covered this one.
BOCTAOE: It’s a pretty, pithy answer, but the world is extremely nuanced. As they say, the devil is in the details, and this might not go deep enough.
“If my advice and opinions sound strange, it’s because I’m just the counter-melody.”
Source: Derek Sivers
My interpretation: In music, you have the main melody, then underneath it you have a counter-melody that goes against it, and together they make harmony. The “melody” would be the typical advice most people give: go to college, get a job, get married, buy a home, have kids, live happily ever after. One “counter-melody” could be: skip college, build a business, stay single, travel the world, sell your company, give all your money to charity, then live in Thailand below your means.
Practice: As I got older and more invested in entrepreneurship, I realized there are no rules in this life. I don’t have to follow the “supposed to’s” touted by people around me. There are no wrong answers, and no one knows what they’re doing. So they definitely don’t know what you should be doing.
BOCTAOE: If anyone needs a justification for why they’re an asshole or narcissistic, this is it. They would “go against the system” and tweet about how “nobody ever understands them,” as they publicly shame capitalism (ironically, from their iPhone).
"Negative emotions are a call to action."
Source: Mark Manson
My interpretation: There’s a reason we’re feeling anxious, scared, hurt, small, embarrassed, distracted, etc. These emotions are like a compass, pointing us towards something that needs deeper examination. But it sucks to do this inner work, so we avoid it, neglect it, or mask it.
Practice: I’ve been doing physical training for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve done mental training. This involves regularly meditating using Sam Harris’s Waking Up app. It doesn’t prevent negative emotions, but it helps me understand and be aware of them. It’s like a mental alarm system that helps me “catch” my emotional spiraling before it gets out of control and I do something I regret.
BOCTAOE: Or, to no fault of your own, your chemical makeup is completely fucked from the moment you were born. Mental illness can’t be “cured” through meditation or understanding, alone.
“Surround myself with funny people, and make sure everyone has a good time and works hard. That’s my only goal.”
Source: Joe Rogan
My interpretation: As of writing this, Rogan just recently signed a $100+ million deal with Spotify. He gets around 190 million downloads of his podcast per month. He’s talked to some of the most extraordinary people on the planet, and even smoked a joint with a few. And yet, his life advice is so simple and pure. It’s beautiful, especially when you consider what he’s built by staying true to these words over the last decade.
Practice: I audit my inner circle. I don’t want to be a pompous dick, but I’m ruthless with who I allow myself to be around. This goes for friends on the Internet, too. If they’re a bloodthirsty vampire who drains my energy, I avoid them like the plague. Or, you know, like they’re an actual vampire.
BOCTAOE: Cutting off family members can be extremely difficult or literally impossible, especially if you’ve been raised in a more traditional culture ⏤ many Asian countries like India and China come to mind.
“The purpose of life, as far as I can tell… is to find a mode of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant.”
Source: Dr. Jordan Peterson
My interpretation: Life is difficult. It will chew you up, spit you out, and bury you if you let it. The way to fight against it is to do what is meaningful. JP says a good goal in life is to do something that benefits yourself, then benefits your friends and family, then, ideally, benefits your community.
Practice: I’m actually a very selfish person. I’m writing this article for me, not you. I find meaning in writing and expressing my ideas to help others. It’s also fun to me, like the adult version of play time. But I’m lucky, since what enriches my life can do the same for yours. Then, if I earn your trust enough, you’ll pay me, which allows me to provide for those I love and the opportunity to continue writing. And the cycle repeats.
BOCTAOE: What was meaningful to Mother Teresa was very different than what was meaningful to Hitler, but both thought they were right. I think morality and ethics are the missing pieces here.
“Spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.”
Source: Ramit Sethi
My interpretation: In his book, he talks about “Money Dials”, where you turn the spending dial up on things you love, and down on things you don’t care much about. When first hearing this, it gave me “permission” to spend money on what’s important to me, and not listen to traditional spending advice.
Practice: Long-term security is number one, so I pay myself first by investing 10-20% of my gross income and keep a 1-year emergency fund. Besides that, one of my money dials is convenience ⏤ I’ll happily spend $500 more on rent each month if it puts me closer to the gym, the grocery store, and people I care about. On the flipside, I couldn’t give two shits about having the latest Yeezy’s.
BOCTAOE: Again, another privilege. Many are just trying to scrap together next month’s rent.
"Happiness is a state of nonillusion, of dropping the illusion. You don’t have to add anything in order to be happy; you’ve got to drop something. Life is a banquet. And the tragedy is that most people are starving to death.”
Source: Anthony de Mello
My interpretation: As I get older, I’m constantly thinking about what I need to add to make my life better ⏤ what needs improved? How can I achieve higher? Optimize, optimize, optimize! But I’m realizing self-improvement is like chasing the horizon. I can grit my teeth, clench my fists, and run as fast as possible towards it, but it will always move further away. Like the quote says, it’s an illusion.
Practice: As I write this, my breath through my nose is clear and steady. I can hear the air conditioner blowing to my right, and my girlfriend talking on a Zoom call to my left. My feet are flat on the floor; my chair’s firm, but comfortable. My calves and ankles are chilly because I have shorts on, but my chest is warm from my fleeced hoodie. My belly is full from a recent lunch. My eyes are slightly squinted because I’m focused, so I relax them, and my jaw muscles release too. I’m safe. I’m okay. I’m exactly where I need to be… nothing is missing.
This moment is enough.
Thanks for reading.
As I was editing through this, I realized I didn’t have any women listed. That said, I didn’t want to make any changes because I think it’s actually more disrespectful to go back and insert a woman’s quote simply because they’re a woman.
Instead, I’d love to ask for your help with this: if you have a quote from a woman that has greatly impacted your life, please share it in the comments below. If you have a quote you really want to share, but it’s not a woman, that’s ok too, I just wanted to broaden my limited, white male mind with different perspectives.