What I've Learnt about Life

What I’ve Learnt about Life

As I approach 40, I’ve had to think about the purpose of my life and where I want it to go.

Is it really money or fame that I should focus on, or something else ?


When I started out in 1999, I just wanted to make a lot of money.

Almost seventeen years later, I don’t think that anymore.

My goal now is to pursue wisdom and happiness, the story below outlines how I came to believe this.


This is what I’ve learnt about life, about where to focus, how to focus, how to spend my time and with whom to spend it with.

I hope you find this helpful and it allows you to determine the purpose of your life.


What can I control:

One lesson that I have learnt in the last few years, is about the impermanance of life and the role of fortune.

Nothing, whether good or bad is permanent.

We must simply focus on what we can control, the rest is not up to us.

I spend my time controlling what I focus on, what my goals are, my values. I now know that I don’t get to control the outcome, the result, or other people’s actions. I try not to waste too much time thinking about that. But it’s not that easy.

The key to having a good life is to value things that are genuinely valuable and be indifferent to things that lack value.

Any time and energy spent on events you can’t control will have no effect on the outcome of events and will therefore be wasted time and energy. Therefore, set internal rather than external goals.

This is very applicable on Wall Street whether when you are trying to get a bigger bonus or trying to hit a deadline or working to get a promotion. Focus only those things that you can control. Get better at them. Don’t worry about the rest.


Practice Self-Discipline:

Why is self-discipline worth possessing? Because those who possess it have the ability to determine what they do with their life. Those who lack self-discipline will have the path they take through life determined by someone or something else.

The trick is to practice discipline over yourself. Control what you want. Think deeply about the things you desire and the emotions you feel.

This also helps with the hedonic treadmill. As you work on Wall Street, you will make more and more money. You will soon want a bigger house, a bigger car, and better holidays. It’ll happen incrementally.

Before you know it you’re running even faster on the treadmill to afford your new life style. Soon you’re making 5 or 10x what you started with and you’re barely surviving.

It may seem hard to believe, but I have both seen and lived through this. Trust me its real.


Ignore other people’s opinions:

I have to work on this everyday. We are all influenced and often times controlled by the opinions of our parents, our colleagues or our co-workers.

It often seems easier to give them power, then to think for ourselves. I’ve had to work on not being beholden to others opinions and thoughts of me. Otherwise my actions are taken to make others happy and to make sure they think highly of me.

Rather than what I really want to do and achieve.

For example, on Wall Street, not needing wealth is more valuable than wealth itself. If you get addicted to your paycheck, to your lifestyle, to your job – well now your boss owns you. Seneca said it better:

These individuals have riches just as we say that we “have a fever,” when really the fever has us.

Warren Buffet figured this out early with his concept of the inner and outer scorecards – this is what he said:

“If the world couldn’t see your results, would you rather be thought of as the world’s greatest investor but in reality have the world’s worst record? Or be thought of as the world’s worst investor when you were actually the best?”


Have a philosophy of life:

Philosophies of life have two components: They tell us what things in life are and aren’t worth pursuing, and they tell us how to gain the things that are worth having. 

If you lack a grand goal in living, you lack a coherent philosophy of life.

Something that you believe in that covers what you believe in, something that grounds you and provides structure. Personally, being a left brain thinker I prefer Taylor Pearson’s General Operating Principles more or you can even read Ray Dalio’s here (Bridgewater Capital). Here are some of mine for example:

1. I believe learning comes first – prioritize growth above all
2. I believe people create optionality – make sure you are growing and feeding the network
3. I make sure that I complete tasks I start – I have a habit of stopping at 80%
4. I ask for help – who can help me get it done ?
5. I believe in 80/20 – understand what 20% should be focused on
6. I cut losses early, making mistakes is ok
7. I compound everything
8. I go first – act first, thank first, move first, ask first
9. I make sure I am well rested every day
10. I choose freedom and open space over other things
11. I am very sensitive to the people around me and their beliefs, so I choose my influences and surroundings carefully
12. I will always ask why – both about my own thinking and others
13. I will go slow in my learning, to be sure I understand the limits of my thinking
14. I will respect myself and forgive myself
15. I know that tomorrow I will be better
16. I know the things that matter are your core – your beliefs, your mind, your drive
17. I will not let the external influence the internal


Practice negative visualization:
We’re unhappy because we’re insatiable. After working hard to get what we want, we lose interest in the object of our desire. Rather than feeling satisfied, we feel a bit bored, and in response to this boredom, we go on to form new, even grander desires. 
The easiest way to gain happiness is to want the things you already have.
A technique I use is Negative Visualization. Here are the benefits before I tell you how it works.
  1. It allows you to better appreciate what you have
  2. It allows you to not cling to the present and your current situation
  3. It allows you to avoid hedonic adaption

You can put this into practice everyday by imagining your life without something you hold dear – whether your career, your money, your family.

The goal is not to cause your grief, but instead to value what you already have, and realize how much it means to us.

This will force you to appreciate more what you already posses, and not get stuck in the hedonic treadmill of acquiring more.

If all of that resonated with you, you will enjoy watching one of my favorite professors and philosophers discuss his views on the subject of a Good Life.


Go ahead, see what you’ve been missing. 

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