My 4 Personal Mantras for a Better Life
Go from zero to hero in four easy lines
There comes a point in every thinking man’s development where he begins to philosophize deeply about how best to live in pursuit of the good life. Regardless of whether it is ultimately achieved, what is endured in order to find greatness can be a fulfilling blueprint to life itself.
In reading the lives of great philosophers, thinkers, and poets — real and imagined, I use these four mantras to remind myself of the best ways to realize my full potential.
1 — Such is the price of learning
This first one is a bit heavy, but extremely powerful and immediately useful.
I was halfway through college when I realized that nothing really matters. I had begun thinking of a better knee-jerk reaction to unfortunate situations: to pause a moment and say to yourself such is the price of learning.
The first time I was able to call on this mantra was in a minor instance. I had just bought a new pair of glasses, only to sit on them a few weeks after I began to enjoy them.
They were just glasses. This pair was the cost of my lesson — to not leave glasses on my bed. Simple. I haven’t done it since.
The second time I called on this mantra was in a more significant way. I had lost a good amount of money in not paying attention to my campus finances. To a college kid, it was enough to make me panic.
I remember taking stock of everything I owned. I planned on selling my instruments, camera, and some furniture to make up for the money I lost.
These objects, my time, and my peace of mind were the cost of a real education. The classes I took were secondary. The lesson I learned then was to pay more attention to budgets. That lesson I only had to learn once.
Other events are beyond our control. The most severe instance where I’ve called on this mantra was with my grandfather.
My grandfather’s health is significantly diminished. Bedridden, no longer able to communicate — the whole nine yards. His state of being took years to get here.
In hindsight, we can see the faults in our judgment. About care. About our humanity. But thinking about this holds no purpose. No use in dwelling on what could’ve been.
There is only what is.
And from this, I’ve said again to myself that such is the price of learning. Even at the cost of individual and collective suffering.
Moving forward, I’ll be sure to find ways to weigh in more heavily in important family conversations. Some of my thoughts on certain situations (had they been implemented) would’ve helped save us some grief. Further, my own lack of responsibility to educate myself on my grandfather’s conditions may have contributed to other faults in judgment that are still unknown to me.
So, I will spend more time learning about how to best respond to different ailments, should any more friends and family succumb to them in the future.
Such is the price of learning.
2 — There is so much good work to do
The strange paradox of content creators is that we are told that we “shouldn’t get into it for the money,” while also trying to produce content that will make us money. Enter: the new-wave mental health crisis!
I believe the real sentiment lies in the expectation of earning money for the work you produce.
In this, there is strength.
When we first begin to create content, there is no money. I didn’t earn money writing for the first two months — and when I did, it was pennies. But that wasn’t what I was after.
The only thing I want more than money is to produce good work. To have a catalog of things I’ve created with my hands that I can look back as an old man and think fondly of.
And this mindset is the exact reason why I believe I started to make money from my writing. Because I spent months learning the craft of it. Because I enjoy thinking and solving essays like word puzzles in real-time.
Because I enjoy the thought of even the smallest adjustments to technique — and love optimizations. And I’ve only just begun. I can’t imagine the skills I’ve learned by the end of my first year.
I do recognize this mindset is a privileged one. There are creators with no degree to fall back on, no other marketable skills in high demand to be called on.
However, as with any line of work, developing your skills is the best means to find more rewards, intrinsically and extrinsically, from the work you produce. So get your reps in!
With every passion, find it in yourself to explore deeper. To think more critically of processes and to develop better ones. To become enchanted with improvement.
In this, there is fulfillment. And good work tends to be rewarded kindly.
3 — Discontentment is the only way forward
I’ve learned to fear stagnation.
Creative peers of mine continue to produce work that looks and sounds the exact same as what they made years ago. I often wonder how these people can grow comfortable with their art while still also publicly wanting more.
There are writers I’ve read who don’t seem to experiment much or at all with their genre and style. With any bout of experimentation, failures are bound to happen. Failures are good. Data points for future success.
My curiosity has continued to get the better of me.
Even if an idea falls completely flat — that’s one more new data point to add to the list. Experimentation is the work of scientists. And I believe we will always have something more to discover.
When I read Garcia’s Ikigai, I learned that the best way to live a long and meaningful life is to keep our minds and bodies moving. Specifically, there was a note on keeping your hands moving (I think sewing was mentioned) that I enjoy the thought of.
So I repeat this mantra: discontentment is the only way forward, not as sentiment against enjoying what we accomplish, but to remind myself not to dwell too long on success when it comes.
The result is an electrifying sense of motivation I’m constantly rolling around in my mind. This coincides with my mantra for good work, too. I believe that whatever I’ll make next will be the greatest addition to my catalog of work.
Whether it is actually true doesn’t matter. But in keeping the spirit of innovation alive and at its height when I go to produce something new, I find it easier to give the process my full attention and energy.
4 — This is a game of paper
This is the mantra I use to keep my head in the game, and my nose in the books. Most everything I write about is secondhand knowledge. My bio reads:
“I read books then write about them.”
Despite my English degree, I actively tried to not read through school. My best friends were Cliff and Spark — both of whom kept excellent notes that I’d borrow from time to time.
But after graduating last year, I began to read for leisure and true erudition and instantly regretted not turning pages sooner.
School is important, but your education is more important.
Being able to understand your world is more useful than understanding the world. I’ll never need to pull quantum physics from my back pocket because it’s beyond the scope of my operation. My work deals with ideas about the intersection of productivity, curiosity, and empathy.
So I’ll write about the best new morning routine, or how to take better notes.
That’s my shit.
This mantra, and my game of paper, revolves around all the strategy that comes with producing this type of content. I think and breathe ideas that come from and in between physical paper and digital ink.
Between the articles I’ve planned and written, the books I’ve read and planned to read, and the endless literary projects I want to embark on, strategy is everything. My tone and word choice in articles. The intake of new ideas through a curated book list. Every word and thought has its place in the ebb and flow of my design.
This is a game of paper. And with it, I intend to create nothing less than an empire. I know a lot of us writers are big nerds.
I love Game of Thrones. So, long may we reign!
More value for you — Read my highest-performing article about learning to live better alone here. So much of it coincides with the lessons I discuss here. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Even more value for you — I’ve written about the usefulness of what I’ve learned in being a music artist. Lessons for everyday life. Read more about it here.