Before we begin, do me a favor and hit the Subscribe button. Subscripting shows me you value this work and motivates me write more. Thanks for your help!

Thanks for reading! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

To achieve much is to suffer much, and I’ve certainly had my share of suffering. This page records various maxims I’ve learned or created to guide myself so that I might at least suffer well. I hope they prove as useful to you as they’ve been to me.

As this is a living document, I encourage you to check it every 6 months or so.

  1. There are no absolute rules, everything should be evaluated uniquely: Rules are useful and heuristics are excellent for problem-solving, but the greatest rule is that there are no absolutes, and that everything ultimately is best decided by a review of the unique situation and its requirements. This stands in contrast to most other problem-solving approaches, which espouse various rigid doctrines. The infinite variety of small and unique circumstances always create a chance for the current case to be the exception to the rule. If you are always watchful and present to the unique particulars of every situation, it becomes clear that there are often superior alternatives to even the best maxims.

  2. Apply your presence to the present, fully: The only moment you’ll ever experience is the present one, and so applying yourself to be and live in this moment is the same as living life more fully. This is true in the literal sense, and can be tested and proven by experiment, by applying more attention to the present moments and observing the results on your body, emotions, and mind. Being more present will vivify and intensify all the functions of your awareness, quite literally expanding your mind in the process. Consequently, presence of mind is a direct measure of the development of your being, and the intensity in your life, so living presently to the fullest is the most important faculty you can develop. This presence of mind expands how much you perceive, sweetening and bettering all good things, and lightening the burden of all painful things as well. There is every reason to apply yourself most to every moment.

  3. Work most on what’s most important, which is the most avoided thing: People tend to work on everything under the sun, except what’s most important, which is their soul. Instead, most people seem to avoid working on their soul as much as they can, as if ignoring it would cause it to lose its power over their lives. This is absurd, and leads to the tragi-comic outcomes that we see in modern life; the soul, for lack of development, degrades over time and causes life to degrade with it. But it is also understandable: it is not just that the most important thing tends to be the most effortful thing to do, but that it takes great effort to even identify what is most important in the first place. People, in their moral weakness, shy away from doing what’s difficult and focus on pleasure-seeking instead. If you want to live well, learn to cultivate the habit of looking for and prioritizing work on the most important thing for your soul, whatever specifically it may be in the present. This will put you on the road to a good life.

  4. Attention is your most scarce resource, so triage it; without it, you can do nothing: Your body has many types of fuel which if exhausted prevent you from continuing anything, but the most important of these is attention. Attention is more valuable then energy or time or will, because all functions of mind depend on attention to operate. If high-quality attention is exhausted (there are different types of attention corresponding to different bodily functions), then it doesn’t matter if you have energy or time, you won’t be able to achieve much at all. It is worth noting that effort especially consumes attention, so if you need to do difficult things, you burn through your attention more quickly. In consequence, you should triage your attention aggressively by starting every day with the most important thing to do that you know of, so that you have the best chance of achieving it and making every day meaningful and worthwhile.

  5. Suffer by choice, so you don’t suffer without a choice: Suffering is unavoidable because effort is unavoidable, but the return on that effort is variable. For the same suffering, you can reap incredible rewards or no rewards. Likewise, the particular type and degree of the suffering you’ll experience are not inevitable; for all but macro-scale events, you can largely choose what kind of suffering you need to experience to get what you want. By deliberately choosing where and when you suffer, you can avoid the infinite variety of more painful and longer-lasting sufferings. To live well, we should deliberately choose both the suffering we undertake and the returns we aim to receive as a result of those sufferings. The best sufferings to choose are the ones that transform your character and soul, and they also tend to be the most difficult. But if you suffer upfront to nurture a good nature, you will reap the rewards for the rest of your life. If you choose not to be deliberate about your sufferings, you will suffer anyways, but without control and with returns at random. You will be a victim inside your own life, a victim of chaos and turbulence you cannot manage. This is a tragic fate.

  6. Your personal weakness is your life’s roadmap, and your greatest pride is probably your greatest weakness; learn to grow out of it: Everyone has lessons to learn, which are implicit in their unique character weaknesses. One of the most profitable things you can do in this life is to understand the meaning and origin of your weaknesses, and having understood them, decide to mature out of them. This is incredibly difficult, since these character weaknesses clothe themselves as our greatest pride, and tie themselves to our favorite talents, so as to become integral parts of our identity. This is a lie. In this way, they obscure themselves from identification for what they are, which is temperamental vices lodged deep into our souls. If you can identify and sublimate these vices, you will be rewarded with immense energy, joy, and further opportunities to learn.

  7. Subordinate your imagination; left unleashed, it turns rabid: Imagination is a wonderful and helpful faculty, but without discipline it turns on its owner, consuming as much attention and time as it is allowed to. The possessor of such a wild imagination feels it as pleasurable, as daydreaming, but it’s really a type of mental masturbation. And like masturbation, it’s an intensely draining activity; this is how you can verify that there’s nothing helpful about an undisciplined imagination. More evidence of its harmfulness is in the gradual corruptive effect of daydreaming, as it slowly turns people delusional or hysterical. Imagination is useful for targeted and specific activities, but otherwise needs to be leashed. The attention it consumes is best conserved for living a life more fully in the present. For all who wish to live good lives, subordinating and chaining the imagination to the will is absolutely necessary.

  8. Measure twice, cut once: Before acting, verify that both the problem and the solution are as they appear, as it is much easier to correct an error before the project is begun than to correct the fault once the project is moving forward. This is a simple idea, but almost no one actually lives by it; almost everyone rushes into their own life choices and decisions, with consequences as you would have predicted. People who can live and act by this simple idea are considered highly disciplined. To live by it, you must master your urge to act to a considerable degree. If that’s not discipline, what is?

  9. Life adapts to demand; so in all things worthwhile, be most demanding: All living organisms gradually adjust and adapt themselves to the pressures placed upon them; the student’s mind stretches with the force of instruction and the challenge of the test, and the athlete’s body grows to handle the strain of weight and motion. All living things appear to have this power to gradually adapt. Just as the body adjusts to demand by growing strong, the mind adapts to demand by growing in endurance and capacity. So in whatever is most valuable and important in your life, you’ll find that if you place great demands on your capacity to deliver it, you will rise to the occasion, but gradually. This maxim is the key to reaching greatness in any field.

  10. Learn to ask for help, and learn to ask well: Life is a challenge for everyone, and none of us can survive or be happy alone. Giving and receiving help is essential, regardless of how we feel about the matter. If we learn to embrace this fact, we are well rewarded: help from others lightens every burden, intensifies joy and pleasure, creates new affection and friendship, and makes possible achievements that would otherwise be impossible. By asking for help, we become part of a much larger whole, with the power to do much more than we can in our minuscule capacities. Learning to ask for help is a much greater challenge than it appears, because so often people feel that to ask for help is to be weak, and to admit defeat. It is none of these things, but that doesn’t make them less of a barrier to overcome. Once you have crossed this barrier, learn to ask well, and cultivate it as you would any important skill, because requesting help is a skill. You’ll find that the degree to which you can be helped will grow with your skill, and the degree to which you can give while receiving grows in the same way.

  11. Study history to learn how all those who have come before you have learned to think: History is one of the most useful domains to study, because it quite literally expands your mind. It shows you all the ways people just like yourself have learned and been able to think, and by learning how they have thought, you can then do so in the same way. This is important, because the great majority of challenges and obstacles in life can be solved by thinking in a different way, and history provides a large variety of ways that people have done exactly that. Within history, studying great men is particularly meaningful, because each of them exemplifies an ideal or greatness of their time, and each of them lifted themselves out of the bondage of communal life to chart a new path forward. If studying history teaches you how to think in new and creative ways, then studying the history of great men teaches you to think in the most novel and most creative ways.

  12. Vigilance in all things makes for a peaceful and relaxing life: Our world is a dark forest, with a few visible and countless invisible predators. Many of these predators are out to get you, mostly opportunistically by catching you in a moment of weakness, for predators always seek the path of least resistance. Vigilance and watchfulness let you prevent such predations, typically by preventing you from ever becoming an easy and convenient target. By always being on the lookout to foresee such dangers and guarding yourself against them, you are protected from most dangers, and the result is a relatively peaceful and relaxing life. While it may seem a contradiction that the reward of vigilance for peace, the reality is that vigilance itself is difficult to learn, but becomes easy to maintain as you adapt to the constant habit of being watchful of your circumstances. The reality is that you never had a safe and peaceful life to begin with, just an ignorant, and vigilance was the real gateway to peace all along. This lesson is, for many, a bitter pill to swallow, but all who have lived patiently under threat know it to be true.

  13. Being lucky is a skill, so learn to be lucky: Being lucky isn’t random; it’s a skill, which is precisely why the most lucky people have their luck persist. Said simply, luckiness derives from the gifts and opportunities given to you by other people, so the best way to be lucky is to be the type of person that other people want to give to, and to be in the position wherein people actively want to give to you. The type of person people want to give to are those with a truly open mind, a thirst for learning, a hunger for friendship, a benevolent and smooth-going disposition, and a reliable character. Note that brilliant intelligence, being the very best, and other such extreme quality are not on the list, for people want to give to those that can reliably help them, and people of extremely talents are rarely that. In addition to being the type of person people want to give to, you need to be in the conditions or environment where people want to give to you, and for that you need to be active socially and cultivate a wide network of acquaintances. Under such conditions, opportunities present themselves.

  14. Everything changes at its own level of scale; big things on big scales, small things on small scales: Everything in life operates at its own pace, and that pace is a function of its level of scale. A city, a state, a movement, a technology, all operate on different timescales, with the rapidity of its change appropriate to its time scale. For example, you might observe that a state is clearly on the decline, but you should not jump to the conclusion that the state will fall apart soon, for states have lifespans of decades to centuries, and will decline and fall on that timescale. By contrast, technologies change and are adopted at a much faster rate, within years and decades as people race to use the latest and greatest useful thing, and movements operate on an even faster timescales, typically lasting just a few short years. To forecast how our world might proceed, understanding timescales in this way is an absolute requirement, because only understanding can justify and sustain the immense patience necessary to see accurate predictions come to fruition, and such predictions are the greatest opportunities. The most advantaged man is the one who can see the future.

  15. Always act as if you are being watched, because you are being watched: The best way to live without regrets or error is to act as if you are always being watched by the world, and preferably watched by god almighty. This presumption will force you to always pick the best path for your soul, for the alternative is to reveal your sordid acts to the world or worse, disappoint god himself. It helps to know that you are, in fact, being watched at all times. You are watched by your conscience, and by your memory, and both of these will come back to haunt you for any regrettable acts that you commit. It is not true to say that you only pay the cost of each action once, for every sin against your conscience is inflicted back at you over and over and over again, until you either atone for it or repress that part of your psyche that reminds you, which is a kind of psychic amputation and very tragic. Best to live with maximal integrity in the first place and experience life as fully as it can be given.

If you like my blog, please subscribe & share it with your friends. I write in my free time, so seeing more people read these posts motivates me to write more. I don’t send anything except my writing.



Thanks for reading! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.