I believe life is a journey of continual learning and growth, so I’ve created many life rules over the years to guide my actions. Here are the 32 best ones from my 32 years on this planet.
I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.
Life Rules For Living Well
- Be happy alone.
If I can’t be happy alone, I can’t be happy with other people. Because if I can’t be happy alone, I’ll try to seek happiness from things outside of myself — things over which I have absolutely no control. The truth is there’s an incredible liberation when I can do anything I want without having to find a partner. Don’t get me wrong; I love hanging with friends. But if everyone’s busy or no one’s interested in what I want to do, I can go and have a great time too. Better still, I can make friends there.
- Judge not by beauty
I used to have crippling acne, leaving me with scars and self-image issues, but it was one of the best things that ever happened. It taught me the importance of real beauty and it helped me separate beauty from character and integrity. Some people, however, would do almost anything for a pretty face — they’ll let attractive people break the rules more often, give them better treatment, and think better of them despite their weaknesses. Avoid this.
- Embrace discomfort.
I underdress when it’s cold, took icy cold showers for years, and purposely put myself in embarrassing situations. It keeps me humble, keeps me mentally strong, and liberates me if I ever want to do something uncomfortable in the future. The more I embrace discomfort, the more comfortable it becomes.
- “The weirder it feels, the faster you’ll change.”
I learned this from my college golf coach. If I learned a new grip, he’d ask me to exaggerate it — that way, I’d learn it faster. The same goes for learning many things. In the beginning, things might “feel weird,” but it’s only because it’s new to me; to everyone else, it looks normal. Exaggerate it and I noticed I change far faster.
- Never parade my philanthropy.
I will never tell anyone if I give money, volunteer for something, or help others because I don’t want any credit for it. Some people, on the other hand, do charity and publicize it because it makes them “feel good.” I disagree. I give because it’s the right thing to do or I believe in the cause, not because I’ll “feel good” by doing it and by subsequently letting others know I’ve done it.
- Protect my time.
Are those five people I spend the most time with making me better or worse? Happier or more anxious? (This also includes my family.) If someone in my life isn’t a positive influence, I distance myself from them. It sounds selfish — especially if they’re family members — but after following this rule for over 10 years, I can confidently say it’s one the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I don’t get my time back; why spend it with energy-sucking individuals?
Life Rules for a Good Life
- Whatever I demand from life, I must demand from myself
If I want an extraordinary life, I have to do extraordinary things. If I want ambitious friends, I have to become an ambitious person. If I want an attractive partner, I have to become more attractive. The best way to live is to seek from within first.
- When buying a new article of clothing, donate an existing one.
This rule stops me from accumulating too much clutter, allows me to fit my life in a single suitcase, and forces me to stay minimalistic. Too often, I’ve noticed my possessions possess me, not the other way around. By reducing my attachment to the things I own, it gives me a powerful liberation. It makes me realize I don’t need a lot to actually be content. And with this mindset, when I buy and own things, they don’t control me as much — and I can be free.
- Never say “need.”
I learned this from Wayne Elise. Saying “need” implies that I have no control and something outside of me is guiding my decision. It’s better to say “I want,” which is a conscious choice.
- Make decisions faster.
Practice being decisive. For example, whenever I go to a restaurant with friends, I’m always the first person who knows what they want to eat. It’s a good way to train myself to move forward in my life and free up mental energy I would otherwise waste on my decision. The truth is when I say “I can’t decide,” that’s a lie: It’s that I’m scared to commit and I want two (or more) things at once. But when I finally make a real choice, I’ll have to say “no” to other things. It doesn’t matter if I’m “wrong.” I won’t know until after I move forward anyway. (Only then can I correct course.)
- “Don’t fail by default.”
This lesson comes from Richard Paul Evans. Previously in life, I failed not because someone said “no,” but because I didn’t even try. For example, not talking to an attractive girl who was checking me out because I’m worried she might be in a relationship. I resolved to never fail by default again — not only with dating, but also with my entrepreneurship, side projects, and life in general — and it’s made a tremendous difference.
- Never out-willpower my environment.
Sometimes, I catch myself trying to fight through my surroundings, but I can’t because the environment will never get exhausted. For example, staying in a hotel room when there’s construction going on next door or sitting at a cafe filled with cigarette smoke from outside. Rather than trying to grit my teeth and bear it, it’s far easier — and less mentally draining — to just get up, move, and change my environment.
Life Rules for as You Make Decisions
- Speak up immediately when there’s an issue.
As a recovering passive-aggressive person, I’ve committed to always speaking up when there’s an issue. I’ll express how I feel in a respectful and considerate way. Specifically, I use “I-Statements” instead of “You-statements” (ex. “I felt hurt when you made that comment” vs. “You hurt me”) and never make things personal (ex. “You’re so rude”). Regardless of their response, at least I will have communicated transparently and set a precedent. And I don’t wait to say something—it’ll only get worse.
- Never hold on to a thought.
I always have a notepad somewhere in my home. Occasionally, I’ll get a random thought or remember something I should do later (especially as I lay down to sleep). Rather than “making a mental note,” I always write it down. Chances are I’ll probably forget. And even if I don’t, I’ll waste precious mental energy trying to keep it in my head.
- “Never ask the advice of someone with whom you wouldn’t want to trade places.”
That quote comes from Darren Hardy. People love to give advice — even if it’s well-meaning — but if they’re not doing what I want, how would they really know? To get to where I want to go, I ask people who have done it or have coached people on how to do it.
- For long flights, prepare like I’m going to bed.
I’ll floss, brush my teeth, rinse with mouthwash, take a shower, etc. before I head to the airport. That way, I’m as comfortable as possible during the flight and I’ll arrive as fresh as I can.
- Wear a collar for flights.
This came from a long conversation I had with a flight attendant years ago. Chatting at the back of the plane, she taught me about the days when air travel was special — when people wore suits, had tiny carry-ons, and treated each other with respect (what the hell is that?). Since then, whenever I fly, I try to wear a button-up shirt and a blazer. It’s cumbersome sometimes, but it’s my tip-of-the-cap to the old days.
- Never tease someone to look good in front of others.
Despite this being atrocious conversational etiquette, I see it all the time. Like, all the time. It might buy a few cheap laughs, but it’s a crutch and it hurts more than it helps. It’s better to make others look good. Because that is how to make friends.
Life Rules For Social Skills
- Stand up and make eye contact when shaking someone’s hand.
My Dad always taught me to look at people in the eyes when I talk to them and to give people a nice, strong handshake. It shows respect, confidence, and professionalism. And if I’m wearing sunglasses or a hat, I take them off for a handshake. Standing up when I do it — if I’m seated, of course — is something I added years later.
- Avoid sitting face-to-face.
I learned this from a college professor. He mentioned he had a round desk in his office so when people came in, he always sat at their side, never face-to-face. I kept it with me. Face-to-face is the most intimidating way to sit. Instead, I sit at a person’s side or angle myself away slightly.
- Never add attention to a blunder.
I learned this from Leil Lowndes. Whenever someone breaks a glass or dish at a restaurant, I might hear a few sarcastic claps, or if I spill something on a table, someone might give me shit. Never do that. It’s so much better to ignore it or help clean up without adding attention or breaking conversation. It protects the pride of others and makes me look like a class act who doesn’t get fazed by anything. People remember that. (I know I do.)
- Unless it’s an emergency, I never answer my phone in the middle of an in-person conversation.
Nowadays, we live in a world where it’s okay to interrupt someone to read a text, check Instagram, or take a phone call. Instead, I always show respect to the person I’m chatting with by giving them a priority. I usually just hit the silence button mid-ring and put the phone away; I can always answer it later.
- Praise in public, criticize in private.
Never criticize someone in front of others — rather than creating a learning opportunity, it’ll only spawn resentment and hurt their ego. (Ever watch Full Metal Jacket?) Instead, take them aside, say what needs to be said, and move on. As for praise, I try to let everyone know that someone is doing a great job. Success begets success.
Life Rules For Dating
- Never have sex on the first date.
Introducing intimacy too soon never led to anything good except satisfying an internal weakness (i.e. being a slave to sex). This rule also eliminates one-night stands.
- Never go to the “friends” route.
This is for the guys: If I like a girl, I always pursue her romantically from the get-go. I know guys who’ve tried the “friends route” and it’s like watching a train wreck in slow-motion: They use “friendship” as a way to get close to a girl in the hopes that something happens. But nothing ever happens. I’m not saying I can’t be friends with girls; I’m saying that if I like a girl, I pursue her. I ask her out and make it clear that it’s a date. If she disagrees, I respect her decision, wish her well, and move on.
- Never ask a girl for her number unless I plan to call her.
There’s a lost art in being a gentleman and little things like “meaning what I say” should be mandatory.
- Call or text after the first time I have sex with someone.
I don’t write a sonnet professing my love, but a simple, “Hey, just wanted to see how you’re doing. I had a lot of fun last night and I hope you have a great rest of your day,” does wonders. (And probably increase the chance of it happening again.)
- Don’t use my title/job/achievements to get girls.
I’ve seen guys throw everything on the line from the get-go. “I run XYZ company, I have ABC job title, I played so-and-so sport professionally, I’ve traveled to all these countries, I perform in a band, etc.” I avoid this. They’ll find out eventually, but until then, I refuse to glorify my accomplishments. (1) No matter what I do, I’m equal to everyone else, and (2) I want girls to like me because of my character and personality, not who they think I am or could be.
Life Rules For Random Reasons
- Avoid the news.
Eliminating the news was, and still is, one of the best decisions I have ever made. I only have so much cognition per day; why waste it on something I have zero control over? How does it help me to know that someone got killed in a hit and run at 3 am on a Sunday morning in another city? Or they’re constructing a new building I’ll never go to? Yes, sometimes the news is important, especially events of major global significance (like in 2020), but if I asked someone to list the top news stories from today, most people couldn’t remember 60% of what they heard. Meanwhile, the world keeps spinning.
- Never check email or social media first thing in the morning.
This is a cardinal sin of productivity because it scrambles cognition, throws off priorities, and creates non-existent mini-emergencies.
- Taste my food before I modify it.
I learned this from a few world-class chefs. When I get my meal, I don’t start by adding salt, sauces, or whatever to it — I take a few bites or a few sips first, and then make any changes. It’s courteous to the chef and gives me an idea of how the chef intended to have it taste.
- Live close to the action.
After growing up in the faraway corner of the City of Los Angeles and following that with an isolated suburb in the satellite city of Incheon, South Korea (where I taught English for a year), I vowed to always live close to the action. I want excitement. I want convenience. I want the lifestyle. I might change my mind in the future, but until then, I’ll enjoy living in the heart of the city.