How to become the happy person you always wanted to be (11 ways practiced over centuries)?

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”– George Bernard Shaw

“I work so hard; I just want to succeed” — one of my friends commented in exasperation a few months back.

We want to be successful. We want to be happy. We want to be free of worry, free of fear of missing out. Not being jealous of someone achieving more than me. Not run after the next shiny thing.

A centered, content and successful life.

So, I have decided to read up on this topic. From ancient philosophy to modern day version of it. From scientific journals to pop psychology.

I have come up with the following eleven rules. I practiced all of them, and it worked for me. Give it a try:

1. Don’t care (about almost anything)

If a small thing has the power to make you angry, does that not indicate something about your size?” — Sydney Harris

Why? We are a social animal. We want acceptance by others. We want to belong to a tribe. This eagerness makes us care about what others think. It makes us dependent on others’ wish.

Not a good ingredient for success.

If you can master this one, you have reached your nirvana. Can’t meet a friend? Late to meet boy/girlfriend at the restaurant? Can’t stay late to help your colleague?

Just don’t care. Don’t get into a guilt trip. The only exception is where it matters.

How? Two steps:

  1. Whenever you catch yourself caring about what others will think, ask yourself, will it matter to you five years from now? If no, don’t care.Almost 99% of things will fall in this category.
  2. If the answer is yes, do care. Your family, your health, etc.. Things that will define your success in the long run.

2. Follow the process:

“Happy people plan actions, they don’t plan results.”- Dennis Waitle

Why? We focus too much on achieving a destination. It may be getting the promotion, marrying the love of our life or some other goals.

The challenge is the goal keeps shifting over time. We end up spending time in constant discontent. We hope to be happy sometime in future when we achieve our destination, and not in the present.

Instead of focusing on the target, if we start focusing on the process, we start enjoying the current moment. We also don’t give a f*ck who else is getting what. We are busy working on our process.

Not looking outside, but inside. It is a virtuous cycle, get it?

How? Whatever you are trying to achieve in life, whether getting a raise or writing the next masterpiece, follow the process. Break the path into small steps. Follow those small steps, one at a time.

If you are in sales, getting a raise will probably require you to over deliver on target. What are the steps to get the sales? Make 20 sales calls each day? Go ahead and do it.

Even if you make one sale from the twenty calls, just follow the steps. Same with getting your love of life or writing the masterpiece.

Build the process and follow it.

3. Throw away stuff

To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things everyday.” — Laozi

Why? We have a “crutch” bias. Our insecure self constantly like to hold on to something. Gives us a sense of familiarity.

We buy unnecessary stuff and then keep hoarding them. We keep holding on to old emotions, grudges, jealousy, etc..

Don’t hold back. Throw away your old clothes and your old emotions. The more you give up, the more space you have. The more space you have in your mind and in your closet, the more clarity you have in life.

You can go back focusing on the process. It is a great feeling to realize how little you need. It is liberating.

How? Anything that you did not use in the past six months, just throw away.Give it to someone who needs it. No, you will not be using it in future.

No, no one else cares. You don’t need all those old papers.

Go electronic if possible.

And as far as emotions are concerned. Remember, you too will die. As remote as it may seem now, it is inevitable. Your old feelings are just stopping you living the only one chance you have to a good life.

4. Face the fear (be uncomfortable)

“True success is achieved by stretching oneself, learning to feel comfortable being uncomfortable.” ― Ken Poirot

Why? We live in a bubble. That is our comfort zone. Living in that zone will never allow us to understand how big our life can be.

Unless we do things that make us uncomfortable, we will never know what we can become. Do you want one formula to success? This is the one.

How? Two ways:

  1. Make a target to do one thing each day that makes you uncomfortable.Speak up your mind. Do the thing that makes you nervous. You have the highest willpower within four hours of getting out of bed. Use that time to push the boundaries.
  2. Start small and improve over time. But, keep growing. Push the limits by 1%. Every day. Soon you will be a master.To be able to be uncomfortable is the surest way to succeed.

5. Build a routine

“What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do.”- Aristotle

Why? Our habit decides everything. Our happiness, our probability of success. If you want to achieve anything in life, make a habit around it.

The way to build a habit is to practice it regularly.

And without a routine, you can not practice regularly.

How? Have dedicated blocks of time for activities. If you want to develop a habit of reading books every day, set aside time.

Get yourself to do the reading even if you do not feel like it. If you stick to the blocks longer enough, it will be your second nature.

A habit will be formed.

Do you want to write a book? Set aside a time every day to do the writing. Our mind can not switch between jobs without compromising quality. Work in batches.

Each block for each batch of work. Writing, Reading, checking email, family time, business meetings. I wrote about the how in a separate blog. Read here.

6. Don’t be busy

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”- Peter Drucker

Why? Busyness is just a way to waste your time and energy. It stops us from doing quality work.We want to be busy because it gives us a sense of accomplishment. Especially in front of others.

Refer point 1.

We feel like we have done something with our time. It increases stress and frazzles us. Flow matters. Deep work is what makes the difference. That is when you produce your best works.

How? Faced with a task, ask yourself, do you need to do it yourself or someone else can do it. Outsource/delegate whenever possible. Say No to most requests. Most yes is a lost opportunity to use your time to do something meaningful.

7. Stay Put (Grit)

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that or ability to do has increased” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why? Life has its fair share of bad surprises. Even the most successful one out there go through the bout of living in the valley of despair.

The difference is Grit.

People who go through the trial but don’t give up. They stick to the process.

How? Prepare yourself for bad times when things are going well.

Remind yourself that things may go south anytime. You are just enjoying a temporary high. When you are going through tough times, remember that this too will be over. You are going through a temporary low.

Put yourself through the process of work. Develop a habit, something that makes you passionate. It will help you to survive bad times.

8. Don’t worry

“These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” — Najwa Zebian

Why? Most of what we worry about does not come through. Anxiety is bad for success. It also does not solve the problem unless you do something. So, why worry?

How? Take a look back. How many of the things you worried about actually happened. Future will be no different.

When you catch yourself worrying about something, write down what is the worst that can happen and the probability of that happening. Start taking actions to change the situation.

9. Sleep

No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.” — Carrie Snow

Why? Our body needs proper rest. A good sleep helps to restore our body and brings clarity to our mind.

How? There are different ways. What works for me are:

  1. Take a warm bath before going to bed.
  2. Stop checking phone one hour before bedtime
  3. Writing down whatever is bothering on a journal and put it away.

The aim is to get your mind and body in the routine of going to bed at a specific time every day.

10. Exercise, eat, meditate

“Health is the natural condition. When sickness occurs, it is a sign that Nature has gone off course because of a physical or mental imbalance. The road to health for everyone is through moderation, harmony, and a ‘sound mind in a sound body’.” — Jostein Gaarder, Sophie’s World

Why? What is good for the body is good for the mind. Exercise reduces stress, helps us to be physically fit. Eating the right food helps hormonal balance.Meditate improves focus and helps to do deep work.

How? Do not overindulge. Be moderate. But do it every day. Make it a habit. Build a discipline.

11. Keep learning

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” ― Isaac Asimov

Why? What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow. We need to constantly retool ourselves for the changing world.

How? Pick up a book and read. Get yourself enrolled to one of the thousands of courses available over the web.


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Elon Musk Biography - Year end giveaway

We always talk about transforming ideas. How founders are building large companies out of nothing. Elon Musk is at the forefront of such breakthrough ideas. No only that, he is probably the only founder who has built two Billion dollar companies at extremely tough space - solving dependency on fossil fuels and colonising Mars.

I have recently read biography of Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance. Writing biographies are hard. One needs to strike a good balance between story telling and presenting the facts. This biography achieves that in a remarkable way.

I was so impressed reading this book that I thought it would be a good year-end giveaway to people building a company or in leadership positions of large companies and trying to bring innovation culture. It is also a good read for anyone interested in future of humanity and technology.

Please go ahead and enter for a chance to win a copy here:

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How long will you live?

Life is all about choosing how to spend your time. Everyday when we wake up we assume that we will live throughout the day. We then extend the logic further and assume that we will continue to live “x” many years. We assume we have a certain supply of time at our disposal. These assumptions are based on two obvious but often ignored flaws.

First, with no certainty we can know the days, years or months at our disposal. Second, we tend to ignore the perishable nature of time at our disposal.

Many amongst us spend a significant part of our time doing a job that we hate. We rationalise that by earning our salary, we will have the opportunity to enjoy other parts of our life. Usually, sometime later. A recent study suggests that more than 70% of the people will prefer to quit the current job if they have an alternate income option.

Why so?

Why do we trade the most valuable resource (time) we have in exchange of things (money, title) that can be earned and replenished?

Because, we are driven by two primary instincts that have been part of the whole evolution process.

The first is an assurance of certainty. All our instincts are hungry for certainty. We hate events that break the status quo. We are worried of changes that bring in unknown in our life. Our whole DNA is programmed to hang on to certainty at any costs.

The second is an assurance of societal acceptance. We are by nature social and like to be part of a system where we are accepted by others. Our society reinforces to us that we need to live a life which is recognised by the society as “acceptable.” And society usually accepts those who follow the known path. We are in awe of people who have broken the pattern and have built something extraordinary. But, society does not want others to take the jump and follow that route.

The fact is there is no path that is certain.

Technology is breaking barriers. Companies that are not more than five years old are challenging established decade-old companies. Outsourcing and automation is becoming a norm in almost all areas of professional life. We have startups that are challenging almost all areas under the sun. From transportation to banking to healthcare…you name it. These companies are reducing friction and automating the decision-making process of established companies.

So, what should you do?

1. Be ready for the unseen and uncertainty. Simplify your life. You will notice that a lot of things that you thought you could not live without are unnecessary. This will give you a freedom about the money you need to earn to pursue the things you always wanted to do.

2. Read a lot. The only way to connect the dots is to read and observe things that are beyond your area of expertise. That way your mind develops to be nimble and embrace the changes.

3. Diversify your income source. Start developing different income sources other than your pay check. The less dependency you have on your pay check, the more freedom you will have to choose how you want to spend your time.

To bring it all together, spend every moment the way you will like to spend it.

That is the only way to live meaningfully in a world of uncertainty.

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