Life Lesson #39 – Quality tools can make life better

Quality tools can make life better. For years, I equated low cost with smart spending. Now I know that’s not always the case. Now, I’m willing to spend to buy high-quality things when I know I’ll use them all the time. The expense is worth it because it makes working a joy. For items used daily, buy the best. If you don’t use it often, of if it’s not important to you, buy the cheapest possible.

Life Lesson #36 – Simplicity brings peace

If you want to avoid feeling overwhelmed, create margin in your life. Simplicity brings peace. Every item you own, every meeting you schedule, every email you receive — every obligation in your life carries both psychic and physical weight. As much as you can, build margin into your life so that you can feel peaceful and free.

Life Lesson #34 – You can have anything you want

You can have anything you want — but you can’t have everything you want. Everything is a trade-off. You have limited resources. When you choose to spend — time, money, brainwidth — on one thing, you’re also choosing not to spend on others. Do your best to spend only on the things that matter most to you. If you don’t really have a passion for Big Bang Theory, why are you wasting your valuable time watching it? Spend your time and energy on something you do care about.

Life Lesson #33 – Focus on what you can control

You’ll be happier if you focus on efforts and attention only on the things you can control. Each of us has a large number of things about which we’re concerned: our health, our family, our friends, our jobs; world affairs, the plight of the poor, the threat of terrorism, the current political climate. Within that Circle of Concern, there’s a smaller subset of things over which we have actual, direct control: how much we exercise, what time we go to bed, whether we leave for work on time; what we eat, where we live, with whom we socialize. You’ll be happier and more productive if you dedicate yourself to your Circle of Control and ignore your Circle of Concern.

Life Lesson #32 – You have the freedom to choose how you respond

You have the freedom to choose how you respond to any event. In the classic Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Fankl writes, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” He based this philosophy on his personal experience in a Nazi concentration camp. When that jerk cuts you off on the freeway, you get to choose if you’ll get angry or give him the benefit of the doubt. When you get stuck behind the old lady in line at the grocery store, it’s up to you how to respond. When those stupid kids next door vandalize your lawn, you get to choose how you feel about it.

Life Lesson #30 – Happy people almost never criticize

Happy people almost never criticize, says Steven Pressfield in The War of Art. “If they speak at all,” he writes, “it’s to offer encouragement.” This is true in my experience, as well. Being sarcastic and cutting doesn’t mean that you’re smarter than the people around you. Most of the time, it simply means you’re an jerk. And that leads me to the next lesson…

Life Lesson #14 – Be present in the moment

Be present in the moment. Accept life for what it is, without labels or judgment. Yield to events; don’t block them. Go with the flow. Nothing exists outside the present moment: Don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. Improve the quality of the here and now. When you do something, do that thing. When you’re with somebody, be with them. Don’t multitask. Put away the smartphone or the computer or the book. Be all there.