When to trust your intuition

Human intuition fails us in areas like statistics, probability theory, and comprehending exponential growth.  Multiple studies – including Nobel-prize winning studies – confirm how poor our intuition is in these areas.  But our intuition serves us very well when it comes to detecting danger.

This makes sense, considering it wasn’t always practical or predictive of success to grasp complex math so we could invest and compound the interest over many years.  But it has always been essential for life to recognize danger, even in ways we don’t consciously understand (microexpressions, eye gaze, body language, etc.).

The moral, and the invitation to improve critical thinking skills, is to drop your ego and your story about how you might be viewed, and obey visceral signals of danger.  When it comes to predicting possible futures, rely on data and not your “rational” intuitions.

What retirement really is

Many cultures value working hard for many years so we can enjoy the payoff when we’re done working.  But there are alternative ways to define work and retirement.

For me, “work” is an investment of energy that comes in multiple forms.  Investing time on income-generating activities or even leisure, serving others, creative endeavors, or human connection. I don’t intend to abandon working on these things the moment I stop trading my time for money.

I view retiring as what happens when you cease sacrificing today for an imaginary, possible future. We don’t know how long we have, but that’s not an excuse to empty your bank account. It’s an inspiration to “retire” a bit each day.

Not for everyone

There are very few category leaders like Google and Amazon. Some of the best business ideas focus on serving far fewer people MUCH better, instead of serving more people in a crowded market – or worse: “everyone”.

As Zig Ziglar put it, better to be a meaningful specific than a wandering generality.  There may only be 20,000 people in the world passionate about some bizarre niche, but a business that targets them is more likely to serve all 20,000.

This applies outside of a business context as well.  We can be truly genuine, and seek to serve humanity in our unique way.  Our authentic selves, however, will always end up being “not for everyone”.  And that’s okay. Embrace it.

Assessing what’s next

Sometimes we assess our future based on where we currently are in life.  After all, right now we are all the sum of all of our choices, energy, life experiences, and beliefs about what they all mean.

But assessing future opportunities based on our past is like driving while looking behind you.  Not so smart unless you’re moving backward, which isn’t the direction we want to go in life.

All of the influences and variables of the past have made us who we are today.  Where you are today is just where you are today.  Don’t forget that history does not equal destiny.

YOLO?

It’s popular to say “you only live once” (YOLO), especially when justifying questionable decisions.  That’s one perspective for sure.

Here’s another:  You only die once. You get to live every day until then.
(YODO anyone?)

This is why hard work matters less

Having a great work ethic is a virtue.  But some bosses and employees seem to value hard work even more than outputs.  But results are non-linear and may have no correlation to effort.

The guy running the corner grocery store probably works even harder than the investor who earns 10 times as much.  Using scissors to mow the lawn is unnecessarily laborious.  I can hear my dad saying: tell me what you accomplished, not how hard you worked.

WHAT you work hard on and HOW you do the work ends up being more important than the attribute of hard work.  And of course, being intentional about what you work on, being mindful of how you work, and having a great work ethic is the trifecta.

Whose goals are they anyway?

Many of us did not consciously choose some of the most consequential life paths we’ve taken.  We are born with a religion, a culture, and strong views on everything from relationships to the significance of education and wealth. Then we delude ourselves into believing that after careful consideration, we chose these ideas.

Obtaining an advanced degree or gaining fame, getting married, traveling the world, or creating wealth are worthy goals, provided they are in fact your goals. No one on their death bed ever said: If only I had spent more time chasing other people’s dreams.

It’s valuable to reflect on the paths we take and ask: “Who is this for?”

All problems are real

It’s easy to look at the 3-year-old who’s having a tantrum because his fingerpainting got ruined and think: get some real problems! This is exactly how the fifth-grader going through her first heartbreak views him.

But the fifth-grader’s father who just lost his job views her the same way. And those who were unlucky enough to be born in a country with no freedom, where they could be killed for expressing their views, would probably trade a limb to have these “problems”. And on and on it goes.

There’s no point in comparing, because to each person, their “crisis” is justified and very real. Life and its challenges are not part of a competition. Knowing this should be the basis for compassion.

What you’ll do…the only thing that matters

Mark Twain said: “The man who doesn’t read has no advantage over the man who can’t read.”  Gender pronoun neglect aside, he makes the point that knowledge is meaningless if you don’t apply it.

So when you acquire experience, knowledge, or some new perspective…what will you do with it?  How will you use it to better yourself, and what will you do to become an inspiring example for others?

Education and certifications are great to have.  But the plain truth is that no one cares what you have.  It’s what you do with what you have that matters.

Stop exaggerating

Outside of obvious jokes, I make it a habit to avoid exaggerations like “I’m starving” or “This is devastating” or “Everyone thinks I’m…”.  (Really?  Everyone?) Our tendency is to believe our own thoughts, and the over-reactive sensational ones aren’t helpful.  It’s unlikely that I have ever actually been starving.

Don’t trick your body into feeling exhausted, freezing, or any other distorted extreme.  It’s possible that you just need a nap or a warm coat, and those can be attained without invoking stress hormones and going into crisis mode.

Yet another reminder to be vigilant with your thoughts and words.  And to remember…you don’t have to believe everything you think anyways.