Deep down, most people know the brutally honest truth. You know it, too.
Nobody is coming to save you.
Yes, there are a ton of things that can be, need to be, and even will be improved about society. Politics matters.
When I say nobody is coming to save you, I’m saying nobody is going to give you the things you really want.
You really want a lifestyle where you feel like you have some semblance of control. You want flexibility and freedom. Really, you want to be able to look in the mirror and be happy with what you see on the other side.
Most of the important missions in your life are up to you alone to go through. You can play the shouting at the sky game or you can play your own game.
You ultimately have no control over either game, but at least one game gives you a shot at taking some control of your life. If you want to learn how to save yourself, you need skills, concepts, and insights.
I’m going to share some of my best with you, right now. Use the ones you like and get started.
Let me try to make this as practical as possible. You can harness the power of reading books simply to develop profitable skills and nothing more.
I’ll take all the other benefits off the table like improving your mindset, inspiring you, learning from the stories and struggles of those who came before you, and understanding the recurring patterns of history.
From a purely how-to perspective, you can save your own life by reading books. How? You can read up on how to do literally anything and implement the advice in the book.
You can read a book about investing strategies and start making money, or grab a copy of the Personal MBA and learn literally every rule of business, or read a technical manual on fixing cars from start to finish, or pick up a book that teaches you how to publish your own, etc.
Books complete most of the job for you. You just have to do what the books say and invest your time. You can easily spend the money you spend on fast food and put it toward books. No excuses.
I had to lead with books because that recommendation will never get old. Ever.
A corollary to the above. If you want to save yourself, you’re going to have to build your own self-directed education, period.
You can live a successful life if you follow traditional routes, absolutely, but your fate will ultimately be in someone else’s hands. This can work well. It can work well for a long time, even forever, but you can still get caught flat-footed.
You can read books, watch youtube videos, take free and paid courses, etc. Just guide your own direction. Learn the things at the intersection between what you want to learn and what the world values. You want to build your ‘skill stack’ – a set of complementary skills you can use to be adaptable.
If you can’t make your own money or find a way to support yourself at a moment’s notice, you have work to do. You always want to have margins of safety in your life. You want to be more skilled than you need to be, have more resources than you currently need, and have more options than you currently exercise.
That way, if one route goes stale you can quickly enter another one. Also, the economy will continue to favor people with rare skill sets more and more. Industries will phase out. Jobs will get automated. Professions will change rapidly.
You want to be on the right side of history here. Again, you don’t have to quit your job or scoff at traditional education at all. But focus on building something of your own, too.
For your own sanity, you have to learn how to see through media manipulation. The short answer? The news is fake. It’s fake because it spins facts to such a level that fake is an appropriate word.
You have to understand just how many people and institutions have a vested interest in keeping you misinformed — politicians, the mainstream media, the military, intelligence agencies, Hollywood, the entire apparatus.
No, I’m not going Q on you here. You can just see how obvious these interests are based on simple incentive structures. Learn to have a critical eye. Not just on ‘the other side’ but your team. Keep this critical eye long enough and you’ll come to understand how much of what you see is kayfabe, theatre, BS.
Then, you’ll come to the ultimate conclusion to focus on what you can control — your skills, your knowledge, your mindset, your plan. You want to avoid getting swallowed whole by this false picture of reality. I’ve seen narratives get a hold of really smart people. No one is immune. Not me. Not you.
You have to stay informed to a degree. You have to learn how to pay attention to trends and see where society, business, industry, etc are heading.
Don’t get caught flat-footed because you weren’t paying attention. Look at your current skill set, your job, and your worldview. Map those against the trends you see coming.
You have to know your way around a computer and a smartphone. You don’t have to be everywhere on social media, but you should understand how the platforms work. Notice trends that seem to be on the way in and on the way out, some accelerated by the current times.
Start a project or business that seems to be in line with the trends, e.g., e-commerce, content creation businesses, exchange platforms like Uber/AirBnB, tools for online communication, virtual networking, etc.
I’m no business expert, but it seems obvious that being a self-educated person who’s good with tech is a no brainer in 2020 and beyond. If you want to be on the right side of the trend, you don’t really have a choice, do you?
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Even though our technology has changed, human nature pretty much remains exactly the same. I have this copywriting book called The Robert Collier Letter Book. It’s more than a hundred years old but the marketing lessons are just as valid today.
People call me wise. I’m not wise. I just study recurring patterns, timeless wisdom, phenomenology. You can’t use the past to predict the future, but you can use the themes and events of the past to build a prediction filter.
Read classic books — biographies, historical accounts, timeless how-to books, anything that will continue to be valid far into the future. Study things that don’t change like human nature, our biological underpinnings, persuasion tactics, little game-theoretical scenarios, etc.
You want to build mental models. Mental models mean little useful rules of thumb you can apply to different situations. The more models you have, the more situations you can deal with.
Build timeless models and study the things that never go out of style, and you’ll always be a step ahead of most other people.
If you can increase your income, avoid lifestyle creep, and invest the difference, you’ll add that margin of safety I talked about earlier. I won’t even pull up all of the stats about household savings, retirement, debt, etc. They’re baffling and scary.
Make no mistake about it. Income inequality will continue to grow. Again, this is about saving yourself. Which side of the equation do you want to be on?
I’m no financial expert, not even close, but I know the gist of how things have been going. People who own assets win and people who don’t lose and continue to see their money lose value. Wealthy people take advantage of tax loopholes, so should you. They have smart strategies to protect their money, so should you.
Flip the switch in your head from being envious of wealthy people to copy their moves. Keep things simple. Learn the basics of personal finance and investing while also learning to manage your behavior the right way, e.g., creating an automatic deposit so you don’t have to think about investing.
Some great resources on earning an additional income are:
Remember my point about the media earlier. Think about who you’re getting your cues from, why they’re sending you those cues, and what outcomes you’ll get if you follow them.
You can learn something from everyone. You shouldn’t discount people’s opinions just because they’re not successful.
But you always want to run them through a filter, e.g., don’t take money advice from someone who’s broke, don’t rely on opinions about an opportunity from negative people, be careful with people who are overly political and think the sky is falling, etc.
Overall, you want to filter people’s opinion through the lens of whether or not you want to live like them. Use this filter with the people close to you like your parents. My parents disagreed with what I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to live like them, so I respectfully rejected their opinions.
If you want to live your life on your terms, you’re going to have to learn to deal with loneliness. You’ll feel lonely when you have a worldview that contradicts most people. Sometimes you’ll be made to feel like you’re the crazy one. Often, you’ll see the truth as the exact opposite of what you’re told.
Seeing the chessboard is a burden. Deal with it.
You want to have a general sense of being prepared for anything that comes your way. Years before the pandemic, I told people to focus on building skills, making an extra income, saving money, being ready, etc.
I didn’t know what was coming, but I knew something always looms around the corner. I saw my parents lose everything in 08-09 and that imprint stuck with me.
Job security doesn’t exist. You’re not guaranteed anything from anyone. The black swan always lies in wait. But what are you going to do about it?
Too many people suffer from utopian thinking. They have this inflexible vision of how the future is supposed to unfold and then they genuinely feel surprised when it doesn’t.
What if you don’t get what you want politically?
What if laws do change?
Are you prepared for what happens either way?
Again, you can’t be prepared for everything, but you see the theme of general preparedness in this post. You can’t predict the future, but you can create tools to help you deal with the future — skills, mindsets, resources, networks, different little margins of safety.
Since no one is coming to save you, you must always be prepared to save yourself.
Far too many people just wander through life with no operating system. You don’t have to be a self-improvement robot or a philosopher, but you want to live your life with some sort of strategy.
Do you have any systems in place to help you stay productive and creative?
Have you taken the time to analyze your strengths and use them to run experiments in your life?
Do you think about what you want your life to look like in the future? Do you think about it vividly?
Then, do you take the next step and map out plans for a better future?
Honestly, the exact methods and routines themselves don’t matter. I meditate, journal, exercise, write, take online courses, keep a calendar, read, etc. I’ve adopted many of the traditional self-improvement strategies but they all serve a purpose.
I’m trying to live a better life and I do that by becoming a student of life. Are you a student of life? Instead of just being reactive to everything in your life and drifting in whatever direction it takes you, try to exert some control over your life and your future.
Try to. It’s the trying part that counts more than the results.
A corollary to the above. I try to think about the most useful strategy that helped me improve my life. There are many, but I credit a lot of my progress to having this constant conversation with myself.
I had this conversation back when I was broke, depressed, and working a crappy job. I’d say things to myself, some times out loud like a crazy person:
I’d use these obsessive conversations with myself to motivate me. There’s no guarantee that doing this will work, per se, but you want to avoid falling into this haze where you start to accept quiet desperation as a given. You want to avoid adopting the attitude that ‘it is what is’ or ‘that’s just life I guess.’
Incorrect. You’re capable of doing much, much, much more. You know that, but you don’t know that. You begin to know it through the process of agitating yourself into action, building confidence through gaining small wins, and repeating the process over and over until you get what you want.