For years I've been pondering what could be the key to living a happier, more fulfilled life. Today, I think I have the answer.
Forget about money, fame, fancy cars, relationships, exercise, family, traveling, new experiences or even good health. Because none of that matters if you don't know how to appreciate it.
It's a dangerous headline for a blog post, isn't it?
If you were to follow it, you wouldn't even be reading this. But while you're still here, I want to share with you the secret to living a more productive, more happy, and more fulfilled life.
If you're anything like me, you probably spend many hours each day in front of a computer. And it makes sense. Computer is a great tool for work and the easiest way of finding information.
And our technology is indeed wonderful. I could go on and on about how amazing the internet is, and how foolish one would have to be to not take full advantage of it. But I'll leave that for another post.
I was a teenager with way too much time on his hands. It was summer break and I had just finished middle school. I used to spend hours browsing the web mindlessly, which is something I still occasionally do. In one of my browsing sessions I decided to see if there was any way to make money online. I didn't want to get a job. After all, I was a teenager who was scared of having to do any kind of work. But I also thought that it would be nice to get some extra cash to buy a few more beers, or whatever else I thought would make me happy back then.
I knew almost nothing about making money online. A friend of mine had tried clicking on ads for a while, and that earned him less than a dollar per week. I wanted to know if there was anything more profitable, so I joined a forum about making money online. There were a lot of people who said that making money on the internet was impossible, and a few more who claimed to have easily made about $1000. I focused on the second group, and I soon found out that they had all made money from sports betting.
What? How is sports betting supposed to make you any money?
Even if there is a way to make money from gambling, there surely must be a lot of risk involved. That's what any reasonable person would think. However, I soon found out that it's possible to make money from bonuses that bookmakers give to their new customers without any risk. To keep a long story short, you bet on all outcomes of a sports event so that you're guaranteed to keep a fraction of the bonus no matter which team wins.
It took me a while to wrap my head around the concept, but once I did, it all made perfect sense. The only problem was that I was only 15, way bellow the legal age of gambling. And I had no credit card, of course. I still don't know what arguments I used, but I managed to convince my mother to give me one of her credit cards for matched betting.
Most people would agree that having a to-do list is absolutely essential for improving your productivity and getting more stuff done. For the past two months I've been living with a to-do list as well, and it has indeed made me a lot more productive.
I've also learned that just having a to-do list isn't enough to keep me productive at all times. What should I do to further increase my productivity and get even more stuff done?
The answer is quite simple. I should eliminate all distractions. I should only spend time on the things that I wrote on my to-do list on the day before. Yes, I can't go on Facebook while I'm writing a blog post, but it also goes beyond obvious.
Let's say that I get an email that I absolutely need to respond to. Or the phone is ringing. Or I realize that it's been a while since the last time I cleaned my room. Or whatever else seems to be important enough to demand my attention at that moment.
With a bit of self discipline, it's easy to eliminate all the obvious wastes of time from my working routine. When I'm working on my iPhone photography website, I already know I shouldn't be wasting any time on Facebook. That's kind of obvious.
Do you already have a blog? If you don't, you should start blogging right now.
In the 21st century your blog is your business card... except it's real and it actually works. If you want to let the world know who you are, what you're doing, and why someone should listen to you, blogging is the best way to do it.
Since many of us are interested in traveling, I thought it would be a great idea to start a thread about the best travel deal sites. Here are my favorites so far.
Holiday Pirates - this blog regularly posts great travel deals from most big European cities. Some of the recent deals include 300 EUR roundtrip flights from Europe to NYC, and 358 GBP flights from UK to Zimbabwe, Sudan or Ethiopia. This is an awesome resource for all European travelers.
Kayak - most people probably know this already. It's a great tool for finding flights and hotels, especially if you're traveling from or within the US.
Along with exercise and nutrition, sleep is one of the primary determinants of your happiness and wellbeing. If you don't get good sleep, you will not only be tired, but also pessimistic, unmotivated, lazy or even depressed.
Research has shown that self control is a limited resource that is greatly diminished when you're exhausted. If you don't get good sleep, you are less likely to be productive and stick to your good habits (such as exercise). You are also more likely to do things that you know are bad for you (such as eating sweets).
Good REM sleep plays a critical role in the development of long term memories. If you're trying to learn anything at all, you better make sure you get enough high quality sleep.
Proper sleep is also essential for maintaining a robust immune system. If you want to be happy, healthy, smart and productive, you have must make sure you get good sleep.
Do you think that your physical health and emotional wellbeing can be considered in isolation? Think again. They both come from the same body, and they both require that you sleep well.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. Steve Jobs
If you're scared of doing anything, ask yourself what's the worst thing that could happen if all goes wrong. Then compare that scenario to death. I bet you it's trivial in comparison.
Let's say you want to quit your job, start a business and follow your passion. What's the worst thing that could possibly happen?
Well, your project could fail, you could waste a bunch of money, and perhaps get into some debt if you're foolish about it. You would also gain invaluable experience. And you would have to get a new job, which could either be better or worse.
Now how does that compare to the destiny we all share? If you keep in mind that you're going to be dead soon, it's really not that big of a deal to risk your job security.
Last week I wrote a post about the dangers of analysis paralysis.
To quickly sum it up, if you get stuck in the planning stage and never take action, you're not going to get anywhere. Instead you should just take the next step in the right direction, and you will already be closer to your goal. You don't need to know the entire roadmap before you can start driving.
When I first started going to the gym, I was really annoyed by how hard it was. I got very tired, my muscles hurt, and I hated the overall experience. I thought that once I got stronger, working out would become easier and wouldn't take much effort.
And of course I was wrong.
It took me a while to realize that the best guys at the gym are also the ones who suffer more than anyone else. After all, that's how they became the best. Those who try to keep things easy for themselves don't get better over time. They just keep doing the weights they can already do without too much effort.
If you're complaining that working out is too hard or that you get too tired, you don't get it. Working out is supposed to be hard. That's the only reason why you do it. And you can only get better if you go through the hardship and learn to enjoy it.