Articles That Have Had a Profound Impact on My Life


5 min read

Occasionally I’ll read an article online that contains an insight that has a profound impact on my life. Here is a list of those articles along with their insights.

Practice The Stoic Art of Negative Visualization (Ryan Holiday)

Negative visualization is an ancient Stoic technique that involves visualizing worst-case scenarios so that you can be prepared for those scenarios if they happen and also so that you can be more grateful for the present moment.

For example, visualize a loved one who is currently in good health. Now imagine they get diagnosed with some form of cancer and are given just six months to live. Feel the sadness and sorrow associated with that scenario.

Then, come back to the present moment and realize just how grateful you are that they’re still in good health. You’re more likely to cherish your relationship with them, to call them more often, to let them know how important they are to you.

Negative visualization allows you to compare your present circumstances to much worse circumstances, which naturally creates a sense of gratitude for the present.

Endure long enough to get noticed (Nathan Barry)

“How many great TV shows have you discovered in season 3 or later?”

I’ve written over 500 articles on this blog, yet there are still dozens of people who discover my blog each week who had never previously heard of it. This is the funny thing about creating work online: To you, the creator, it seems that once you’ve produced a certain amount of work online that surely you’ve reached most of the people who could possible care about your work.

But we forget how vast the internet is. No matter how much work you produce, you’ll probably never reach more than 5% of readers on the internet. As a creator, it’s important to realize that finish lines don’t exist. You’ll never arrive at a point where your work has reached its maximum audience. The more you produce, the more people will discover you each day.

The Tail End (Wait But Why)

Suppose your parents are 60 years old and will live until 90. If you see you parents, on average, 10 days per year, that means you will only get to spend time with your parents for (10 days per year) * (30 years) = 300 more days ever.

This type of math can be used for any scenario. For example, suppose you’re 30 years old and that you’ll live until age 90. If you only go to the beach for three days per year, that means you will only spend (3 days per year) * (60 years) = 180 days on the beach for the rest of your life.

Viewed from this perspective, you can see how little time you may actually have to do certain things. Using this logic, Tim Urban comes to the follow three conclusions:

1) Living in the same place as the people you love matters. I probably have 10X the time left with the people who live in my city as I do with the people who live somewhere else.

 

2) Priorities matter. Your remaining face time with any person depends largely on where that person falls on your list of life priorities. Make sure this list is set by you—not by unconscious inertia.

 

3) Quality time matters. If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious.

I don’t think this article is depressing. I think it’s eye-opening. It makes it very clear that you should spend your time doing things and being around people who matter most.

The “Fog of Work” (The Military Guide)

It’s so easy to get caught up in working at a 9-5 job, then spending the evenings doing household chores, running errands, and watching TV, that you never actually take extended time away from work to figure out where the hell you want to go in life.

If you’re not careful, it’s possible to spend years and even decades just going through the motions of everyday life without ever creating a financial plan, figuring out what type of work you actually like to do, read life-changing books, and spend extended time with your loved ones.

The solution to breaking out of the “fog of work” is to force yourself to take an extended sabbatical or a significant amount of time off work to actually figure out what you want to do with your life, how you want to spend your time, and how you can set up a plan to make that happen.

I Built a 4-Hour Workweek…What Do I Do Now? (Nat Eliason)

Nat Eliason figured out a way to create sustainable income streams that covered all of his lifestyle expenses while still in his early 20s. Yet, as he shares in this article, he didn’t quite feel satisfied with spending most of his time just chilling on a beach.

Through some introspection, he discovered that reaching a point where he no longer needed a day job to pay for his bills did not bring everlasting happiness. Instead, it merely gave him the financial means to pursue meaningful work that could actually have a serious impact on other people in the world.

From Nat:

What I recognize now is that the goal of setting up a lifestyle like this shouldn’t be to opt out of work and life and chill on a beach, but rather, to free up enough time and resources to figure out what you really want to dedicate yourself to. To explore and find what kind of work will be meaningful and self-actualizing, so you don’t get stuck on the “more money” or “shiny gold star” treadmills.

This article is one of several that helped me realize that life is about finding fulfilling work, not saving up enough money to never work again. This played a major role in my decision to quit my day job before I was financially independent.

No “yes.” Either “HELL YEAH!” or “no.” (Derek Sivers)

The way to always have the bandwidth to do the things you find important in life is to only say yes to things you want to say “HELL YEAH” to.

Every event you get invited to. Every request to start a new project. If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about it, say “no.”

 

We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.

Growth Without Goals (The Investor Fieldguide)

Goals can be useful for giving you a direction to head towards, but focusing exclusively on hitting goals has the following drawbacks:

  • The person you are when you set a goal is unlikely to be the exact same person you are when you finally hit the goal. By the time you reach it, it might not even be a useful goal anymore that makes sense for you.
  • On the path towards achieving a goal, you’re in a constant state of failure since you haven’t reached it. 
  • Once you do reach a goal, that feeling of satisfaction is fleeting. 

A better strategy for self-improvement is to focus on growth without goals. This means focusing on getting a little stronger each day in the gym, as opposed to hitting certain lifting goals. Or building positive saving and investing habits, as opposed to hitting a certain net worth. Or sitting down and writing for a certain amount of time each day, as opposed to finishing a book by a certain deadline.

When you focus on implementing habits that lead to growth, the goals take care of themselves. Even better, when you focus on enjoying the day-to-day activity, the process itself becomes the reward.

You will be judged (or you will be ignored) (Seth Godin)

Whenever I publish an article online, it’s inevitable that someone will disagree with what I say and judge my work. The alternative, though, is to not publish anything at all, in which case I would just be ignored.

Getting judged is never fun, but it’s always better to be judged than to be too timid to publish something in the first place. This is an important insight to have for anyone who writes online.

Note: This is an actively growing list of articles. As I discover more articles that have a profound impact on me, I’ll link to them here.

Zach

Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.

Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.

Although the bulk of his net worth is invested in index funds, his favorite place to invest in individual stocks is M1 Finance, a site that allows you to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free.

His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.

His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.

His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.

Zach

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