This Book is For:
*Anyone who's been left wondering why they're stuck where they are in life, even though they've done everything they were "supposed" to do, and followed the path they were "expected" to follow.
*People who don't want to be force-fed fantasies about the possibility of becoming "digital nomads" or working on their laptop from some beach in Bali, but instead are ready to face the world as it really is, and do what it takes to actually achieve their career goals.
*Online business owners who want to escape the drudgery of their 9-5 and are willing to put in the work required, and who also want a clear path forward that will take them to where they want to go over the next 3-10 years.
*Everyone who simply needs clarity, direction, some accountability, and a little bit of "tough love" to push them onward and upward.
“There is no end point to this process. There’s no mountaintop. You’ll never ‘arrive.’ Life promises you an adventure and nothing more.”
This book isn't going to rescue you. For better or for worse, that's something you'll have to do for yourself.
The truth, however, is that facing the fact that no one is going to come save you is what's actually going to save you. And I can't think of too many people better qualified to deliver this critically important message than Ayodeji Awosika.
Awosika is one of the most popular writers on Medium.com ever, with nearly 100,000 followers, a TEDx speaker, a self-taught 3-time author, and a world-renowned personal development expert who reaches millions of readers per year with his message of radical personal responsibility and radical self-determination.
He accomplished all this with several different decks stacked against him, being a "victim" (he'd hate that word) of self-doubt, discrimination, lack of opportunity...the list goes on and on, but it's irrelevant because Ayodeji decided to ignore the nonsense that everyone else tried to feed him about success and instead set out to realize his own vision of success.
If some people are "born on third base," Ayodeji was born on the bench.
With all that in mind, his unique perspective as someone who has absorbed some of the worst of what this world can throw at a person and then transmuted it into something good - as someone who has taken the rocks that people threw at him and used them to build the foundations of a meaningful life - makes him someone worth paying attention to.
This is a book that tells you what you need to know, not what you want to hear. This is a book that tells you how the world actually works, not how you think it should work.
Not everyone will resonate with his somewhat harsher, more realistic style, but one thing that no one can ever say about his writing is that he's being inauthentic or dishonest. There may not be Absolute Truth in this world, but this book represents his hard-won truth, which is damn near close enough, as far as I can tell.
Read this book if you want to learn from the valuable experiences of someone who has actually achieved the kinds of results that most of us want in our own lives:
*The freedom to do work that excites you and stretches you creatively.
*The opportunity to make a great living doing what you love and what you're good at.
*The mental toughness necessary to thrive in an unfair world.
*The ability to build life-changing habits and execute them on auto-pilot (even if you’ve tried and failed before).
All of the advice in this book has been battle-tested in the real world. You and I live in the real world too, and if we want to succeed there, we have to learn how to be both optimistic and realistic at the exact same time.
We need to learn how to hold two different, contradictory, opposing viewpoints in our minds at the same time without retreating to the false comfort and safety of either one of them.
It's all about being able to say to yourself: "This thing is true, but also...that's part of it too."
Or, more specifically:
"Life is exceptionally challenging and often extremely unfair, but we're not stuck forever in our current circumstances. It's going to be difficult to get out, and we're going to face a ton of resistance - maybe even from people we thought were on our side - but we can do it. We can make changes. We can progress, and slowly, over time, get from here, to wherever it is that we want to go in life."
The point I'm driving at here is that Real Help doesn't contain a bunch of magical promises that the author couldn't possibly fulfill. It's a realistic book, but it's also reasonably optimistic. It will stretch you, but if you take its lessons to heart, the real world won't be able to break you.
In fact, I think that Awosika is being a little conservative here with respect to the claims he makes about his own book. It actually reminds me of the news anchor Dan Harris's claim that meditation made him about 10% Happier. For example, Awosika says that modest improvements of 3-10% are achievable, especially when most everyone else stays at zero. Having read the book myself, though, I think it could improve your life much more than just 10%.
In the Key Ideas ahead, we're going to stay firmly rooted in this real world of ours, and yet we're going to explore its manifold possibilities. We're going to work on setting the frame of our own existence and designing our lives with our own hands.
Another important idea that we'll cover is the omnipresence of incentives, and how "following the money" and other valuable resources will lead you to some strangely liberating realizations about why the rest of society doesn't benefit from your becoming free.
While you do have a tremendous amount of personal power and agency, there are still huge obstacles standing in the middle of our individual paths to freedom, and some rather intimidating forces stacked against us. No conspiracy theories here, by the way, if that's what you're thinking. Nope, just incentives. They're powerful! You'll see.
We'll then move on to discuss the critical importance of knowing the rules of the game so that you can play the game better. It takes immense courage to resist the downward pull of "cultural gravity" and the opinions of average people who want you to live average lives just like them, but when you realize that the 99% of people who think differently than you don't actually have the life that you want, it all gets a lot more manageable.
There are very few guarantees in life, and you know this already. But one of them is that your existence can become an incredible adventure, once you choose to see it that way. And, crucially, once you decide once and for all to take action to shape your own future.
The real world has broken untold masses of people before our time, but it doesn't have to break us. You can break the pattern and break free. You have personal power and agency, and now you also have this book.
#1: Set the Frame for Your Own Existence
“If you think the media creates false perceptions of beauty, success, and worth, you've just admitted that you think the media creates reality instead of...you.
If you think the politicians are ruining your life, you're letting them set the frame for your existence."
No one is going to die your death for you, so why should you let other people dictate how you're going to live your life?
Stop letting other people set the limits of your own life. Yes, there are certain "facts of life" that we can't escape, but there is also a tremendous personal freedom that comes with the knowledge that many of the things we were taught were "rules" are actually guidelines, even simply suggestions.
We need to control the frame of our own existence if we want to be free. And by "frame" I mean the boundaries or paradigm within which we operate. The "rules of our game," so to speak. The rules and standards that we set for ourselves that guide our behaviors and shape our lives.
For an example of "frame," consider the following:
In conversation with others, when we allow them to lead the conversation, we're letting them control the frame. We're talking about what they want to talk about, we're answering their questions, and so on.
Of course, not everything in life is about "control," but the issue becomes a lot more serious when we're talking about your actual life. We let other people tell us what kind of goals we should strive for, how we should speak, and how we should think. We let other people dictate how it's acceptable to should show up in the world, and even what "success" actually looks like.
We're letting other people control the frame of our existence, under the tacit assumption that they know how to live our lives better than we do.
Again, you'll notice that in most conversations, those who are "high status" tend to control the frame. They steer the conversation in a direction that serves them, making the other participants respond to them, and prove themselves, always reacting to what's being said instead of leading the conversation themselves.
In a wider context, those who are "high status" in life set their own frame as well. They ruthlessly curate their own reality, and never blindly let external forces dictate to them what's meaningful in life, how they should live, or what's worth doing.
Yes, we can all learn from others and take hints and cues from the wider culture about what's acceptable - absolutely we can - but the ultimate responsibility for setting our own frame lies with us.
But how do you even start? Especially if you've been blindly following the carrots that have been dangled in front of you your whole life?
The first step is detachment; it's the development of thoughtfulness, cultivated in solitude, and established by your own thoughts that is going to move you towards the answers. Every so often you have to disengage from all the inputs you're getting from the outside world and decide for yourself what you think.
It's an ongoing, life-long, even daily process. External forces will never stop trying to influence us to think and behave in ways that are actually contrary to our own interests. "Frame battles" as I like to call them are going on all the time.
People are always going to try and change you from the outside in, but you have to create yourself from the inside out.
With this comes a change in your paradigm, your mental operating system that tells you what's normal for you, possible for you, and desirable for you. If your paradigm is that you are happy and healthy, rich, free, resourceful, vibrant, alive, active, and loved, then you can't listen to anyone who tries to tell you that they know more about how to live your life than you do. Because who are they?
Raise your standards, and establish your own frame!
Consciously decide what's meaningful to you in life, what is and is not an excellent use of your time and energy, and move accordingly!
The alternative is a life spent being whipped around by the whims of others, many of whom absolutely do not have your best interests at heart.
If you don't set the frame of your own existence, someone else will try to.
If there is a void where your Self should be, someone else will rush in and try to fill it with their frame, and with their priorities. As the great psychologist Carl Jung once wrote:
"If you don't know who you are, the world will tell you."
#2: Know the Game
“The biggest obstacle to clarity is focusing on the way things should work as opposed to how they do work. Instead, accept the idea that society has incentives to keep you from improving. Get over it, and move forward with the proper understanding."
The happiest, most successful, most high-flourishing people in the world aren't necessarily smarter than you are, more intellectually gifted, or anything like that. They simply see the world more clearly than you do.
They have better mental models - ways of seeing the world, and how everything all fits together.
Their worldview is clear(er) and more accurate, at least when it comes to what it will take to achieve their goals, and they simply refuse to lie to themselves about what is actually going on. About what's real.
They are under no illusions that the world is fair, that everyone wants the best for them, or that the good guys always win. We're going to talk about this in the next Key Idea, but they also follow the incentives, and they reject comfort and complacency in favor of receiving the cold hard truth about the way the world turns.
You've got to do this yourself if you want to survive and thrive in the modern world. You need to know the game.
Furthermore, you can't afford to waste any more time complaining about the way the world should work when instead, every single minute you spend doing so could be much better spent investigating how the world actually does work. Every single minute you waste complaining, criticizing, and being outraged at the unfairness of it all, is another minute that you're never going to get back and that you could have used to improve. To come up with a plan of action to help you deal with reality as it is.
The balance to strike here is between being aware that bad things happen to good people and that the people who are supposed to win don't always come away victorious, while simultaneously being aware that you hold complete and total responsibility for how your life turns out.
In The 10 Pillars of Wealth, Alex Becker uses the example of a drunk driver crashing into your car and seriously injuring you for the rest of your life. Now, no reasonable person would tell you that being hit by that idiot is your fault, but what's done is done. The facts are the facts. That being said, it's now your responsibility to move forward and get on with your actual life.
The world is malleable. You have agency here, and you have the tremendous personal power to direct your own thoughts and chart your own course for the future. You can, quite literally, curate your own reality, such that you only surround yourself with winners - with people who make you better. The world is also negotiable, and, within reason, you can bend circumstances to your will.
But your power is not unlimited, and you're still playing a rigged game.
Again, know the game. Learn to differentiate between what's negotiable and what's not, and step into your full personal responsibility. This is how you free yourself. As Ayoedji writes:
“You need to understand how the world works. Sometimes the world is unfair, and things outside of your control affect your life. You'll also need to understand how much responsibility you have for your current circumstances. Even if your life isn't entirely your fault, some of it is. This won't feel good in the short term, but it will liberate you in the long term."
#3: Follow the Incentives
“If you know the incentive, you know the outcome.”
Charlie Munger is Warren Buffett's business partner (it's a shame that he's usually introduced like that - he's plenty impressive on his own!), and he also said that you should never, ever think about something else, when you should be thinking about the power of incentives.
Who stands to gain from this happening? Who benefits if I take this specific action as opposed to something else? Who's the big winner here? These are the types of questions you need to be asking when you set out to try to understand the world.
The following quote is fairly cynical, but it's pretty f***ing accurate too:
“The politicians and media companies make you sad, angry, and depressed. When you're sad, angry, and depressed, you work out less and eat more. When you work out less and eat more, you get sick, and someone is there to provide the perfect pill to cure you just enough for you to go through the entire cycle all over again."
Sorry for "almost" swearing up there, but I feel very strongly about this stuff. I hate to see people getting lied to, and being told that the world is in much worse shape than it actually is, just so the media companies can keep people hooked to negativity and sell more advertising.
But alright, let's bring this back to the power of incentives. Due to the nature of the human mind, bad news is much more salient - memorable, exciting, vivid - than good news. Being told that everything is pretty good and that even better times are probably coming up ahead just doesn't drag eyeballs to the front of television sets as effectively as telling people that the whole world is going to shit.
It's bad news - savagery, war, death, destruction - that makes people pay attention, and it's advertising that keeps the lights on at the television studios. You can see the connection forming already! Don't get ahead of me now!
But you're right: the media companies cherrypick the worst shit that's going on and they feed it to the poor saps who are dumb enough to believe that the world is actually going to shit and that we've never had it this bad.
In fact, however, if newspapers printed the truth about the state of the world...
"...they could have run the headline 'Number of People in Extreme Poverty Fell by 137,000 Since Yesterday' every day for the last 25 years. We live in a world not just with a smaller proportion of extremely poor people but with a smaller number of them, and with 6.6 billion people who are not extremely poor."
-Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now
But again, that doesn't sell advertising. So they'll focus on the things that went horribly today, and the things that could maybe go wrong and kill us all in the future, and present them as the only truth. The advertisers make money, the media companies make money, the prescription drug pushers make money, the liquor stores make money - everyone benefits except YOU.
This is the power of incentives. This what you should keep in mind at all times.
However, as Ayodeji writes in Real Help:
“I used to get upset with the media for trying to gaslight me until I realized they have no other choice. Reflecting life, society, and the world accurately would cost them money."
It's all incentives. We like to think that we're better people than that, but odds are, if we ran the media companies and had shareholders that we had to answer to and friends and neighbors we had to compete with and make more money than, then we'd probably give up at least some of our principles too.
Maybe not, hopefully not, but thus is the power of incentives. So you really do have to ask yourself on a more or less regular basis, "Who benefits from the actions I take each day? Who stands to gain if I make this choice as opposed to some other choice?" Because you're probably being manipulated by someone.
Follow the incentives, and train yourself to look for them. You'll find them everywhere, because they are everywhere.
Not all incentives are bad, of course, and you can use them for good! Both in your own life and in society at large. Morally good incentives lead to morally good outcomes. The concept of incentives, however, is neutral. How we manipulate them is up to us.
#4: When You Know the Truth, 99% of What You Hear, See, and Experience Will Contradict the Way You Think
“Whenever you try to ‘succeed’ or 'follow your dreams,' you're going to have to do so in a world that will indirectly and directly attempt to stop you. It's a natural consequence of how things work, not a planned conspiracy.
Keeping this in mind will increase your odds of success because you can be less emotional about the process. It does no good to shout into the sky. The game is rigged. What are you going to do about it?
The only fighting chance you have comes through personal responsibility and self-reliance, with the full understanding that you have to be at an above-average effort level to play a rigged game.
The good news, though, is once you understand the game is somewhat rigged, you navigate differently, which dramatically increases your odds."
I physically had to put the book down for a moment when I first read this passge. I just felt how true it was, and how, if I wanted an extraordinary life, I would need to adopt (or continue to hold) extraordinary beliefs.
You literally cannot think in the same way that everyone else is thinking if you want to lead an extraordinary existence. Because, I mean honestly, how's it working out for them?
In many ways, you're in a significantly better spot because you know that the game is rigged, that it's up to you to save your own life, and that you don't have to live like everyone else. You can adopt superior beliefs, and then you can act on those beliefs to live a superior life.
You'll have to experience a painful kind of stripping away of all illusions if you want to be free, but the Buddha survived it, and he was better off for it. It wasn't until he was 29 years old that he witnessed the reality of sickness, old age, and death that existed outside his father's palace walls.
The Buddha then came face to face with the fact that the world is a tough place, that not everyone has your best interests at heart, and that even the people who do care about you - well, many of those people still unintentionally believe things that would destroy you.
The reality is that there are people out there who profit from your continued misery. Just take this sickening quote from the shocking book, The Velvet Rope Economy, by Nelson D. Schwartz:
“In a conference call with investors in December 2018, Vasos sought to reassure them that Dollar General shoppers were still struggling. ‘While the economy appears to be doing well, we know that our core customer is always challenged,’ he said.”
Did you catch that? Reassured that they were still struggling. Doesn't that make you...angry?! Well, if it does, good. There's still hope for you.
But at the same time, you need to realize that to keep those people down, there are groups with a vested interest in getting you to believe false beliefs about the state of the world, about the extent of your power to overcome your current circumstances, and about the possibilities that exist for you.
Every system of control is like this.
Every kind of system is murderous to the soul of the individual, and when most of the people within the system believe this nonsense about the allegedly hopeless state of the world, that's all you tend to hear. That negative shit takes up 99% of the oxygen in the room, so to speak, and you end up facing this constant external pressure to believe ideas that are cancerous to your very soul.
It's still my belief that we need to fight pessimism and cynicism at all costs. The world is getting better in all kinds of remarkable ways, but it's not going to keep happening if we give in to despair and learned hopelessness.
That being said, with your newfound knowledge about the way the world really works, you can begin to make smarter, more effective moves. You can start winning.
Avoid the giant trap of thinking like 99% of the rest of the people on this planet, and look to adopt the beliefs of the people you want to be like.
Ignore the 99% and focus on the good. Help whomever is around you to be helped, and never let the ceaseless negativity infect your mind.
Always look for the incentives, and challenge the thinking of all those people who make money by getting you to mistrust your own thoughts.
#5: Stack the Probabilities in Your Favor
“If you understood the unfathomable power of compounding and embraced it, you’d behave much differently.”
For everything that happens in the universe, there is a mathematical probability that determines how likely it is that events will, in fact, turn out that way. Everything is probability, and one of the most profitable things you can learn is how to stack the probabilities in your favor.
Nothing worth doing in life has a 100% chance of succeeding, of course, but you can influence events, and your actions - or inaction - can tip the scales of probability and make it more likely that you will get what you want. You do have partial control over this process of cause and effect.
This is powerful information for a person to know! For example, there is an extremely high probability that, if you sent 50 personalized, relatable, and relevant messages on LinkedIn per day to prospective employers, you would be able to land a new job in a very short period of time.
Your chance of finding a new job without doing that, however? I'm not exactly sure, but I do know that it's a whole hell of a lot less likely.
For everything in life, then, there is a high probability that if you do "this," and you do it often enough, then "that" will happen. Again, you just need to stack the probabilities in your favor. You need to put your thumb on the scale, and tip the balance yourself by your actions.
Your task then becomes to add as many of these high-probability events as possible into your life in the areas you care about most, and simply play the odds.
If you're single and you don't want to be, among the highest-probability actions you can take is simply to go places where lots of single people go, and introduce yourself to more people! Start conversations! Put yourself out there!
The best news is that when you add many of these high-probability actions together, they start a positive compounding effect, a virtuous cycle, whereby your subsequent efforts are even more likely to be successful.
Practice your speaking skills by, say, starting a YouTube channel? Go shopping for some new clothes so that you look and feel your best? Read a book like What's In It For Them? and start to become interested in other people and what you can do for them? Stack all of these probabilities together and it becomes highly unlikely that you remain single for much longer.
Think of it this way:
“When you think about success, you should think about building the type of successful life that would occur repeatedly if you were to run simulations of your own life over and over again."
Sure, you might see someone with terrible habits, a terrible personality, and awful character traits living a great life, but I assure you, they are the exception. They got damn lucky somewhere, and the fact is that we just don't know how.
Other people are island universes, unknowable, and it's better simply to focus on what you can do, the probabilities that you can influence, and leave other people to their own fate.
Maybe if we run that person's life over again, it would have turned out completely differently and one or two seemingly inconsequential events that happened decades ago would have resulted in them being in a completely different situation today, one that's commensurate with their shitty personality and overall awfulness. We just don't know.
However, if you do enough of the things that are likely to make your life turn out great, and you do them for a long enough period of time, maybe you aren't guaranteed success (who is?), but you get, oh I don't know, a 78% chance of living the life you've always dreamed of, as opposed to a 38% chance if you had just sat there and did nothing. I made those numbers up, obviously, but you get the idea!
Remember This: Doors of opportunity will open for you, but you need to be moving down the hallway!
#6: Use Negative Motivation to Make Positive Changes
“Pain and dissatisfaction are often more motivating than inspiration.”
There's an old story about a dog that was sitting on a nail but couldn't be bothered to get up. Its owners knew that the nail must be at least somewhat painfully digging into the dog's side, but yet couldn't understand why it just sat there without moving.
After thinking about it for a while, one of the dog's owners just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, I guess it just doesn't hurt enough to move."
That story is about a dog, but this is exactly how and why people remain stuck for their entire lives in a situation of mediocre comfort, rather than becoming great. It just doesn't hurt enough to move.
In the classic psychology book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman breaks down the idea of loss aversion, which is basically the strange human propensity to fear losses more than we desire equivalent gains. Simply put, losing $100 would feel more bad, than gaining $100 would feel good.
We can use this critical information to make massive changes in our own lives, and we can do this by utilizing negative motivation. We need to tap into our own pain, our own frustration, our own disgust with our current sitation, and use this pain to jumpstart our drive to improve our circumstances.
Obviously, it's dangerous to remain stuck here in anger and frustration - we don't want to stay angry for our entire lives - but we're just talking about using this pain and anger as fuel to get ourselves started in a more positive direction.
You have pain in your life, negativity that you're holding onto because certain things haven't gone your way, so use that; use everything you have in your chamber, so to speak, to get what you really want out of life. Use the negativity if you have to, and make use of it, transmute it into something positive, something that will make your life better.
Think of how frustrated you are with whatever you want to change, and how awful you feel for persisting in this state, and demand change. Get angry over your lack of progress and your deferred dreams, your broken promises and your unfulfilled potential, and use those "negative" emotions to propel yourself to the mountaintop.
I really do have to reiterate here that we're only using this strategy as the "nuclear option" when it comes to behavior change. Remaining stuck in negativity and useless anger is even worse than living a life of mediocre comfort and quiet desperation. We're just using this as a starting point, a launch pad to something greater.
Once you've pressed the nuclear button, so to speak, and used negative motivation to leap into action, then it's important to shift gears and focus instead on how far you've come, rather than how far away you still are from the life you really want to live. Measure backwards, and make the switch from using negativity as motivation to using progress as motivation.
You might have needed that initial spark of anger to move you into relentless forward motion, and it'll always be there should you ever need to tap into it again, but now you're going to use the positive facts of the progress that you've made and use that to get to where you want to be in life.
#7: Almost Everyone Stays at Zero
“You’ll work on self-improvement your whole life, only to make moderate gains compared to the work you put in. Instead of getting 100% better, you'll get 3 to 10% better. But that 3 to 10% makes a huge difference when most everyone stays at zero."
The point here isn't necessarily to draw comparisons between you and other people, but it's important to understand how rare it is to desire to improve yourself. I mean, lots of people say they want a better life, but what are they actually doing to get there?
Seriously: both to desire change and to act on it? That makes you the rarest of the rare.
Almost everyone stays where they are in life (with maybe modest, incremental gains over the span of 30-50 years), but you can be different. You can make progress, you can make gains, improvements. You can be better.
Sure, parts of your life may only see a modest improvement (maybe you land a few promotions at your job, instead of starting the next unicorn startup, or add a few more close friends to your social circle, instead of suddenly receiving dozens of party invitations every Saturday night), but damn it, that 3-10% is magic. It can be like night and day; it can be the difference between a life you hate and a life you can't imagine not living.
And yes, people will misunderstand you when you attempt to make these positive changes in your life. Even more people will misunderstand you when you become obsessed with self-improvement, rather than just "kinda interested." But how far you take this is a decision that's entirely within your hands.
Remember, huge portions of the adult population hate reading and think that it's a waste of time. They have no interest in making positive changes to their life, but, as so often happens, when you prove that it's possible, the fact that you've changed calls into question why they haven't. And most people can't handle that.
But that's none of our concern. They're the ones who are going to stay at zero, and we're the ones who are going to make modest (and sometimes substantial) improvements in our lives; we're the ones who will always be striving for more, and enjoying the journey in the process. We're the ones who are going to make it.
But Awosika makes the important point that there is no end to this process, no final stage that we get to and are then able to say that we've "arrived." Life is progress. Life is neverending self-improvement and mastery. The real winners in life are the ones who realize that progress itself is motivating, and worth pursuing for its own sake.
Perfection is really f***ing boring, and I can't even imagine a life where I wasn't always working on something fun and important. Progress is not only motivating, but it's also neverending and just...fun! Perfection means that there's nothing left to do, and when there's nothing left you do, all that is left is to die.
Now, I personally happen to think that the 3-10% improvement that Awosika is suggesting here is vastly underestimating the possibilities available to you. I think of that number as more like a baseline, with real progress possible in the 50-75% range in many areas of our lives.
The main thing is to never put up a zero. Always work for some form of progress, and refuse to accept stagnation, apathy, and death. Perfection may be impossible, and even undesirable, but progress is always possible, and it's there for you to reach out and just take it.
#8: Self-Help Isn't Selfish
“We all benefit from people who accumulate resources. People benefit from you accumulating resources. Not just financial ones, but health and spiritual resources too. Those who have can give."
I've never understood how some people are much more concerned with making the rich poorer, than they are with making the poor richer. It's f***ed up, yes, but some people actually do think that way! They believe that some people need to have less, so that others can have more.
I reject this type of lazy thinking, and I believe that it's incumbent upon all of us to create opportunities to help other people rise, instead of trying to keep a few "elites" down.
We can all win, and there are more than enough resources to go around.
Now, obviously, I'm not saying that the world isn't extremely unfair. That's basically what this entire book is about! But what I am saying, is that it's not helping anyone for you to have less than you could have.
Money isn't "evil" - it's neutral. It's a mirror reflecting the soul of its possessor. If you earn a million dollars and give $900,000 away to fund children's education, I fail to see how going out and earning that money in the first place is "evil" just because you're rich and have more than most other people.
I actually believe that we have a moral responsibility to earn and give away as much money and other resources as we possibly can. Think of the good we could do if good people like you and I earned more money!
There are - literally - children under the age of 5 who are starving to death at this very moment because some people refuse to make wealth a bigger priority in their lives, and who believe that being poor - in and of itself - is virtuous, or even "saintly." What nonsense!
Being poor doesn't put food into the mouths of starving children.
Money is neutral. There are amazingly generous, and yes, saintly poor people, just like there are wicked, vile, lazy ones. There are also rich people whose lives you would not want, rich people who are just insufferable, avaricious, nasty, and cruel, on a level that's just...indescribable. So what's the answer?
The answer is not to be like them! It's really that simple. Accumulate resources for yourself, earn a f***ton of money, and give loads of it away to people who really need it. Nothing evil about that.
We're not just talking about material resources here, of course. If you're healthy, active, and vibrant, you'll have the energy to get out there in your community and make things better for the rest of us. When you have the emotional bandwidth to rise above your own problems and be there for others, we all benefit.
Conversely, when you're stressed out about money, consumed with self-loathing about mistakes you've made in the past, or otherwise mired in mental sludge, you won't be able to help anyone.
Self-help isn't selfish. We need you to become better, richer, in so many ways.
We need you to save your own life, so that you can save the life of someone else who needs you to be strong for them.
“Success by my definition involves more unlearning than it does learning.”
“You also lie to yourself when you’re being overly negative.”
“Much of my improvement came from embracing and believing things I knew to be true but didn't want to believe."
“Once you realize the adventure itself, including its ups and downs, is the entire point...you're free."
“Treat fools around you as a normal part of life, like rocks or furniture.”
“The media wants you to be depressed, sad, and angry (because it helps them make money)."
“To cure yourself of the news, read last week’s news.”
"No grand conspiracy. Just simple incentives."
“When you start to see the different incentives stacked on top of one another, it's no wonder why change is so difficult. You're trying to become a sovereign and self-actualized individual when all the outside forces around you are trying to make you the exact opposite.
If you want to change, you need to understand not only how this is all happening, but why.
When you realize that much of what society does to you doesn't have much to do with you, you start to become free. They're not out to get you. You're just a cog in their machine. Fortunately, if you decide to escape, they won't even know you're missing."
“Inspiration and motivation are fine, but they pale in comparison to realism and wisdom.”
“Whatever your current situation is, I know the tips I'm going to give you are a lot to ask. But I'm going to ask anyway. Why? Because real self-improvement involves facing challenges that are going to ask a lot from you."
“Imagine you have no money. Literally zero. How could you find a way to make an income with no resources, connections, or equipment?
Well, there's this insanely useful place you can go to that gives you access to all the knowledge you'd ever need. Even better, you can go there and use these resources for free.
This magical place is called the library.
Most libraries provide computers with internet access. You could start an online business, for free, using library computers and knowledge you find from free books. Why'd I choose this story? Because it's my story."
“Resourcefulness is much more valuable than having resources.”
“I’m OK with people asking for help. We need social safety nets for those who truly can't help themselves in the moment. Before you ask for help, ask yourself whether you've really, really exhausted your resources. Then and only then would I suggest asking for assistance or quitting."
“You’re strong enough to fight for yourself. You don’t have to fold. So don’t.”
“Getting rich is easy. Staying rich is hard.”
“Never ordering the best meal on the menu sends a little signal to yourself that you can never have the best of the best. Always complaining about your job, the government, and the economy sends a signal that the world owns your life instead of the other way around. Getting caught up in petty annoyances and trivialities sends a signal that your life itself is a triviality."
“You need motion. You need something to aim at that challenges you, but doesn’t defeat you.”
“Passion does exist, but it’s a feeling you earn with experience, instead of needing it to get started.”
“Difficulty is what wakes up the genius.”
“I credit much of my success to reading.”
“Half the self-improvement battle is simply avoiding being dumb.”
“Start wherever you are! Low-hanging fruit really tastes as good as the high stuff."
“The more intellectual humility you have, the less you fuck up.”
“Soul-sucking work is what burns people out, not work itself.”
“You can hack the 10,000-hour rule by getting pretty good at many skills and becoming the best at the intersection of those skills."
“Sure, you live in the wealthiest period of human history and have access to infinite amounts of free education and resources, but you're fucked, and life is just too hard. Here, come to our meditation retreat to alleviate your anxiety. That'll be $1,997."
“If you really cared for yourself, you’d do everything in your power to live a better life.”
“How can living a life well below your potential be considered caring for yourself?”
“If the people around you aren’t thriving, you could be the example that helps them change.”
“The more you have, the more you can give.”
“Statistically, the top income earners pay the vast majority of taxes. No moral argument on that, just hard numbers.
Entrepreneurs and workers both need each other, but entrepreneurs take on 100% of the risk. If they fail, the workers can find another job. But if the entrepreneur fails, they have nothing.
It's because of this risk, backed by putting themselves first and believing they can pull it off, that they get to enjoy the reward. The entire world benefits from 'selfish' entrepreneurs."
“Wealth creates more wealth."
“People have huge emotional blind spots around things like money, success, accomplishment, effort, all of it. Often, these rationalizations curse us forever. We don't go for what we want, so we don't get what we want."
“If you got this far in five years with being a lesser version of what you are now, imagine what you can accomplish in another five years with all the skills you have now. The more successful you become, the easier it is to work hard because you truly know the rewards hard work can reap."
"Mastery is the continually evolving state every truly successful person goes through because there's nothing better to do."
"Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems."
Important Insights from Related Books:
“I am passionately pro-education. There are few things I care more about than reading and learning constantly. Yet, the lives of the people profiled in this book show conclusively that education is most certainly not the same thing as academic excellence. We’ve conflated them, at great cost to ourselves, our children, our economy, and our culture.”
Just because some of the smartest and most successful individuals in the world dropped out of college or skipped college altogether, does that mean that you should too?
Not necessarily; but in this book, author Michael Ellsberg makes the case that most of what you'll need to learn in order to become successful - by anyone's standards - are skills that you'll never see taught in school.
Teaching any of those success skills would require dozens of books for each one, and Ellsberg doesn't claim to teach you everything you need to know on these pages. But he tells you where to start looking, and what's important to look for.
He doesn't just give you a fish, or even go too deep in teaching you how to fish; he simply explains why you absolutely have to learn to fish, and where to go in order to learn most effectively.
Not only that but if you're missing any of these critical success skills, you're handicapping yourself horribly and holding yourself back from all that you could achieve and become.
Sample Quotes from the Book:
“The driving theme of the stories in this book is that, even though you may learn many wonderful things in college, your success and happiness in life will have little to do with what you study there or the letters after your name once you graduate.
It has to do with your drive, your initiative, your persistence, your ability to make a contribution to other people’s lives, your ability to come up with good ideas and pitch them to others effectively, your charisma, your ability to navigate gracefully through social and business networks (what some researchers call ‘practical intelligence’), and a total, unwavering belief in your own eventual triumph, throughout all the ups and downs, no matter what the naysayers tell you.
While you may learn many valuable things in college, you won’t learn these things there – yet they are crucial for your success in business and in life. Whether you’re a high school dropout or a graduate of Harvard Law School, you must learn and develop these skills, attitudes, and habits if you want to excel at what you do.
In this new economy, the biggest factor in your success will not be abstract, academic learning but whether you develop the real-life success skills evinced by the people on these pages, and how early you do.”
“Paying your bills on time is a seductive feeling, and once you get in the habit of it, you won’t want to go back.”
“The key to making money, and therefore living a life of less stress, is to cause someone to joyfully give you money in exchange for something that they perceive to be of greater value than the money they gave you.”
Read the Full Breakdown: The Education of Millionaires, by Michael Ellsberg
"When life or a plan feels ultimately unsatisfying, I find it's because I've forgotten to find the intersection of all three: what makes me happy, what's smart, and what's useful to others."
-Derek Sivers, Hell Yeah or No
Certain authors just become associated with particular ideas over time, and one that I continue to profit from handsomely – year after year after year – is Derek Sivers’ insight that when making a decision, it’s either a “Hell yeah!” or it’s a “No.”
Either you’re consumed with interest by what you’ve decided to do - it’s just so completely obvious that this is the thing you should be doing/want to do - or you’re better off not doing it at all.
Hell Yeah or No is a fairly quick read, full of exceptionally useful frameworks for thinking, and I ended up with dozens of book notes and brilliant ideas to think about later. The interesting thing, though, is that many of Sivers' conclusions contradict each other!
Derek is a special thinker in that way. He can calmly and wisely approach big, intimidating questions, and he can disagree with himself multiple times (sometimes even in the same essay), all while getting closer and closer to a tentative answer that he then rigorously tests in the lab of his own life.
He's no armchair philosopher either! I'd even say that he's one of the most interesting people alive today. The dude sold his company, CD Baby, for millions of dollars, enabling him to forget about earning more money (he doesn’t need it or want it), and letting him put every single creative neuron in his brain into his creative work and, you know, living his actual life. And what a life!
In the past, he’s been a musician, a producer, a circus performer, an entrepreneur, a TED speaker, and a book publisher, but here in this book, he’s just your friend Derek.
Another really cool thing is that after the first 5000 limited edition hardcover copies he printed were sold out - raising $250,000 in 6 weeks - he donated the entire amount to help others. In his words:
“Yesterday I wired the entire $250,000 to the Against Malaria Foundation. That will buy 125,000 malaria nets, protecting ~225,000 people, averting ~65,000 cases of malaria, preventing ~125 deaths.”
Pretty damn cool if you ask me! Which you didn't haha. But still!
In the book itself, he prescribes the lifestyle of the happiest people that he knows: Having a well-paying job, while seriously pursuing their art for love, not money.
He writes that we all have a need for stability and adventure, certainty and uncertainty, money, and expression, and when we're out of balance, we need to step back a bit into solitude and silence, and really think through these problems for ourselves.
The book is just full of useful wisdom like this, and he lays out numerous simple though profound mental models to help guide our decision-making. He discusses things like:
*Leaving space and time in our lives so that we can throw ourselves completely into the few things that matter most.
*How good goals shape our actions in the present, not in the future.
*Why it's actually good to be a slow thinker and to change your mind often.
*How to relieve overwhelm by saying no to almost everything.
*Finding the intersection of what's smart, what makes you happy, and what's useful to others.
*The best way to sift through the advice (often unsolicited) that you'll often receive from others who think they know more about how you should live your life than you do.
*Why you should do everything that scares you.
*And a lot more....
Throughout the book, Derek Sivers makes a clear, concise, cogent case for the indisputably true assertion that this one life is your own, and you have to live it in a way that makes sense for you.
No one else on the planet has more at stake when it comes to your life than you do. Making good decisions and living fearlessly according to what you've decided takes astounding courage, but no one is more capable of doing it than you are.
Sample Quotes from the Book:
“Say no to almost everything. This starts to free your time and mind.
Then, when you find something you're actually excited about, you'll have the space in your life to give it your full attention. You'll be able to take massive action, in a way that most people can't, because you cleared away your clutter in advance.
Saying no makes your yes more powerful."
“We do so many things for the attention, to feel important or praised. But what if you had so much attention and so much praise that you couldn’t possibly want any more? What would you do then? What would you stop doing?”
“Empty time has the potential to be filled with great things. Time filled with little things has little potential.”
Read the Full Breakdown: Hell Yeah or No, by Derek Sivers
“When we say, ‘Put your ass where your heart wants to be,’ we mean station your physical body in the spot where your dream-work will and must happen. Want to write? Sit down at the keyboard. Wanna paint? Step up before the easel. Dance? Get your butt into the rehearsal studio. Dumb and obvious as it sounds, tremendous power lies in this simple physical action.”
-Steven Pressfield, Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be
Steven Pressfield is essentially the patron saint of artists and creatives everywhere, and this book is a wonderful exhortation toward greater commitment to one’s chosen craft, and a call to go “all-in” on your creative endeavors.
Pressfield just gets it; he’s been there, and after one hell of his own hero’s journey, he’s returned to show us how to “make it” as well. If you're still stuck in the depths of fear, self-doubt, procrastination, and perfectionism, however, then this book could really help you.
At the core level, it’s a book about giving up everything for a dream, and about why doing something “crazy” like that can make life worth living, at least for a certain type of person. You might be that type of person, and if you are, you’re going to feel seen while reading this book as well.
Throughout the book, he blends the practical and the metaphysical in a way that’s just…awesome…and if you believe that you have something great inside of you but aren’t sure how to access it, then you need to read this book.
Sample Quotes from the Book:
“You too have a body of work. It exists inside you, on the Plane of Potentiality. Are you a writer? This body of work exists, like books on a bookshelf. Close your eyes. You can see them.
Are you a musician? These works exist like albums, like concerts, like performances. Listen with your inner ear. You can hear them.
These bodies of work exist as alternative futures. They are that which can be…and should be…and want to be. But they are not that which is guaranteed to be.”
“Can we put our ass where our heart wants to be if we’ve got a family, a job, a mortgage? Yes. The Muse does not count hours. She counts commitment. It is possible to be one hundred percent committed ten percent of the time. The goddess understands.”
“What would it be like to train as a quarterback beside Tom Brady? How hard would we have to work to practice alongside Steph Curry? How would we feel submitting our manuscript to Maxwell Perkins, who edited Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald? When we say, ‘Put your ass,’ we mean put it at the highest possible level.”
Read the Full Breakdown: Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be, by Steven Pressfield
“Business schools don't create successful people. They simply accept them, then take credit for their success.”
-Josh Kaufman, The Personal MBA
The legendary entrepreneur Derek Sivers called this book a “masterpiece,” and he says it’s now the one “START HERE” book he recommends to everybody interested in business.
The Personal MBA is a wide-ranging, comprehensive overview of everything you need to know to succeed as a business owner, and there’s a reason it’s sold more than a million copies. Fun Fact: Derek actually asked Josh Kaufman to be his personal coach and mentor after he finished reading it!
Not only that, but it also passes the “Investment Test” with flying colors. Ask yourself: If you were to trade 10 dollars and 10 hours of your time, and in exchange, you’d save one hour a week for the next two years, would you take that offer?
If you value your time at, say, just $10/hour (a gross underestimation, in my opinion), then after that time, you’d have saved $1,040 ($10/hour, for 104 weeks = $1,040, minus your initial investment). Yes, this book can save you a ton of time and frustration, but it goes much deeper than that, considering the exorbitant cost of business school today!
Attending one of the top three business schools (in America) will saddle you with around $150,000 worth of student debt, but you’ll also lose $100,000 or more (as an estimate) in lost salary or opportunity costs because you were in school “learning” when you could have been out in the real world earning.
At the time of this writing, there are eight different US business schools where the cost of an MBA exceeds $300,000. This book? The Personal MBA? You can get it for free from the library, for just a few dollars at a used book store or on Amazon, and this breakdown is included in your membership to the Stairway to Wisdom. Total savings for you? Nearly $400,000!
The fact is that MBA programs don’t have a monopoly on advanced business knowledge. You can learn these things without drowning in debt, and this book is an excellent start.
Sample Quotes from the Book:
“Every successful business creates something of value. The world is full of opportunities to make other people’s lives better in some way, and your job as a businessperson is to identify things that people don’t have enough of, then find a way to provide them.”
“Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.”
“Business degrees are often a poor investment, but business skills are always useful, no matter how you acquire them.”
Read the Full Breakdown: The Personal MBA, by Josh Kaufman
The View from the Opposition:
No one's ideas are beyond questioning. In this section, I argue the case for the opposition and raise some points you might wish to evaluate for yourself while reading this book.
#1: You Don't Have to Start an Online Business to Be Free
Much of this book goes into detail about how to start and grow your online business, which is fine, and it can certainly help you build a life of financial freedom (and time freedom as well). But you don't need to start an online business in order to start taking control of your own life.
For every content creator today who makes a living playing video games or talking about how to build a successful online business, there are people who make good livings as coders, dentists, administrators, and much more besides.
Until the robots take over (ahem), we're still going to need people doing all these different types of jobs, and so I don't want to give you the impression that I believe that running an online business is the only way to break free.
Of course, I have an online business too, and I'm plenty free! It's my path to freedom, and Awosika's path to freedom, but it's not the only path, and I wanted to make that abundantly clear.
#2: You Should Read More Self-Help Books
Ayodeji Awosika advises against becoming a compulsive reader of self-help books, and yes, his idea absolutely has some merit. I like the underlying idea that he's getting at, but personally, I believe that there's virtually no limit to the number of books you can read and still gain something of value from.
What he's really saying is that instead of becoming a self-help junkie and jumping around from book to book, never actually implementing anything you learn, you should take meaningful action in the, you know, actual world. I completely agree!
That being said, I still read self-help books because that's what I love to read. And even though, yes, I encounter much of the same material over and over again in different forms, it's great to have that kind of spaced repetition, where you're being exposed to all these fantastic ideas over and over again, rather than just reading them once and moving on to the next thing.
Not only that, but even if you get just one new idea from a self-help book that was largely repetitive, and you apply that idea in a way that makes a measurable difference in your life, then reading that book wasn't actually a waste of time.
"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Questions to Stimulate Your Thinking:
The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life. That's also how you get the absolute most out of any book that you decide to read:
You ask great questions the whole time - as though the book was on trial for its life.
Here in this section are a few questions that can help guide and stimulate your thinking, but try to come up with your own additional questions, especially if you decide to read this book the whole way through...
#1: "How many times in the last year have you been forced to re-evaluate a long-held belief of yours and decided to change your mind?"
#2: "Have you ever been harmed by holding a belief that you thought was true but actually wasn't? In what way?"
#3: "Who do you think has influenced your worldview the most? Have you consciously or unconsciously accepted their frame and adopted their beliefs as your own? How has this affected you?"
#4: "How much personal responsibility do you take for your current circumstances? Do you believe that you have the power to improve them? Or do you believe that if your life is going to change, then someone or something else will probably have to change first?"
#5: "What's one thing that you believe but that 99% of other people don't? Why don't they see it your way? And is there a chance that they're actually correct?"
#6: "Who stands to gain from your life remaining the same? If you don't improve your life, who benefits from that state of affairs?"
#7: "What are some concrete actions you can take that will make it more likely that you will achieve each one of your goals? Would doing even more of those things improve your chances even further?"
#8: "What's one 'negative' event in your life - something that happened to you, or something that someone said - that you can use for positive motivation? How can you use that hurtful event and turn it into fuel that will help you succeed?"
#9: "What would a 3-10% improvement to your quality of life look like? In terms of your finances? Your physique? Your relationships? Other areas that are important to you?"
#10: "Who needs you to be strong for them? Who needs you to become free?"
"Judge a man by his questions, rather than by his answers."
So you've finished reading. What do you do now?
Reading for pleasure is great, and I wholeheartedly support it. However, I am intensely practical when I'm reading for a particular purpose. I want a result. I want to take what I've learned and apply it to my one and only life to make it better!
Because that's really what the Great Books all say. They all say: "You must change your life!" So here, below, are some suggestions for how you can apply the wisdom found in this breakdown to improve your actual life.
Please commit to taking massive action on this immediately! Acting on what you've learned here today will also help you solidify it in your long-term memory. So there's a double benefit! Let's begin...
#1: Choose Someone to Be Strong For
In the Key Ideas above, we covered the fact that self-help is not self-ish. We need to be strong for others, because many people alive today desperately need our help - they need us to be strong for them. So the first Action Step here is to choose someone you are going to show up for, someone who needs you to be strong.
It doesn't have to be someone you know personally, but think of how many people there are in the world that could really use your help! If you still resist the idea of getting rich for yourself (in every sense of that term), then at least do it for them.
Think about this person - or this group of people - who needs your help and keep recalling them to your mind every single day. Multiple times per day! Before every one of your challenging tasks, before starting work on every difficult project, every time you're tempted to give up.
Think about who you've committed to being strong for, and allow the love you feel for that person or those people to sustain you, to keep you going.
Just like in Plato's Symposium, where he says that an army of lovers could never be defeated, when you're doing what you do for someone else, you can survive and persist through much more than you ever could if you were simply trying to succeed by yourself and for yourself.
#2: Curate Your Own Reality
The people and ideas you surround yourself with influence your worldview, for better or for worse, and their beliefs, standards, and opinions will help set the frame of your own existence.
Knowing this to be the case, consciously expand your social circle to include the kinds of winners who want similar things in life that you do. People that encourage you to become better, to rise higher.
Block out everyone who doesn't believe in the vision you've created for how you want to live your one and only life.
No, don't blind yourself to constructive criticism or other valid ways of viewing the world, but also realize that everything you see, hear, or otherwise experience is constantly informing your worldview and shaping your paradigm.
So instead of letting someone else decide what's shaping your mind and your life's trajectory, curate your own reality, and start being extremely selective about who and what you allow to own real estate inside your mind. It all matters.
#3: Line Up a Few 10% Gains
Where you start out in life doesn't have to be where you end up. Sure, there are limits to what one person can achieve in a single, finite human lifetime, but the history of humanity is the story of people selling themselves short.
As Ayodeji Awosika says in this book, realistically, everyone is capable of achieving 10% gains in their quality of life. So in this Action Step, I want you to get very clear about what, exactly, a 10% gain would look like for you. What would happen? How would your life change?
A simple example would be the case of your financial situation. What would a 10% gain look like here, and how could you make it happen?
If you earn $50,000 a year, then a 10% improvement here would be you earning $55,000 by the end of the year, which is "only" an extra $416 per month. Now the question becomes, how could you earn an extra $416 per month?
That's a question that books like this can help you determine for yourself, but what I'd like you to do for now is to start tracking your progress with respect to these 10% gains, or whatever number you come up with. Set a goal to improve your finances or your physique or whatever else by 10% a year, and then develop a plan of action to help you get there.
#4: Stack the Probabilities in Your Favor
Once you've identified some areas in your life where you'd like to make at least 10% improvements over the next year, now's the time to formulate a real plan to help you get there.
As we've discussed elsewhere in this breakdown, you need to stack the probabilities in your favor by identifying which actions are more likely to end up with you being successful.
For example, if your goal is to earn $416 more this month than you did last month, one of the highest-probability actions you can take is to make it easier for people to give you money. I know it sounds stupid to overlook something so obvious, but I'm telling you: you wouldn't believe how many people I see with websites where it's almost impossible to figure out how to pay them!
It's beyond the scope of this breakdown to go into identifying individual money-making opportunities, but with the internet, they're virtually everywhere.
There's so much money flying around online today, and you literally just have to put yourself in the way of it. Get in front of people with credit cards, and your probability of making money increases dramatically.
#5: Transform Negativity Into Fuel
It's possible to use negative motivation to achieve positive results, and I highly recommend that you do, at least in the beginning.
Some negativity is always going to be a part of life, so make sure you're using it for something positive, rather than just letting the negativity use you. Make it serve a purpose in your life, rather than have it infect you with its poison.
What you're going to do here in this Action Step is to take something awful that someone said to you or did to you and use it as motivation to get moving toward something positive.
Only you will know exactly what personal event can serve this purpose for you, but find it, let it fill you with anger and frustration and drive, and then channel that negativity into something positive, such as building your business, repairing your relationships, getting in shape, or something else that's important to you.
Never let negativity go to waste. Take the bricks that other people throw at you, and use them to build the foundation for a better life.
"The path to success is to take massive, determined action."
About the Author:
Ayodeji is a three-time author, TEDx Speaker, and top writer on Medium.com with close to 100,000 followers. His words reach hundreds of thousands of readers each month and millions per year.