Chris Behan

Ideas I live by

  • Learn by doing - The most effective way to learn is by doing. No book or lecture can substitute the knowledge and skills gained by actually doing. You don't learn to play the piano by reading books about it, you learn by actually playing.

  • Exercise as medicine - Think of exercise as the required daily medication for both your mind and body. It's common knowledge that exercise makes your body stronger, but for some reason we neglect to talk about its mental effects. It's much harder to be depressed if you exercise everyday.

  • Cheap dopamine is the modern devil - Video games, junk food, and social media are the modern embodiment of the devil. They trick our brains into expecting instant gratification and eliminate our ability to focus. The result of their abundance in modern society is an entire generation with a broken reward system, unable to endure the time and effort required for healthier and more fulfilling long term goals.

  • Reality is nuanced - If you try to apply a singular way of thinking to every scenario in life you'll be certain to fail. The only way to effectively navigate the nuance of reality is to be flexible with your beliefs and to set your ego aside in pursuit of the truth. Life is extremely complex and context is everything.

  • Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become - Imagine that your identity is composed of sand piles. Every action you take adds a grain of sand to a specific pile and the biggest piles define your identity. Choose to go to the gym enough times and you become a gym-goer, choose to write enough times and you become a writer.

  • Work like your own perfect employee - We all know what makes a great employee: work ethic, strong communication skills, punctuality, transparency, etc. Yet few people do their best to behave this way. An easy mental trick I try to follow when working for someone is to behave like my own perfect employee, easy as that.

  • Don’t complain - Complaining is a waste of time and energy that does nothing to better your situation. Be grateful for your health and the fact that you live in the wealthiest society on earth during the wealthiest period in human history. Countless people would kill to be in the position you’re in, so stop complaining and seize the abundant opportunities around you.

  • You are what you consume - What you watch, read, and listen to, all influence how you perceive the world. If you expose yourself to an idea enough times without exposing yourself to dissenting ideas you'll eventually believe in that idea. For example, If you only read Marx and Ingles, and only listen to Bernie Sanders and AOC, you'll believe in the ideals of socialism.

  • Mind your own business - Don't concern yourself with other people's affairs. Resist the urge to engage in gossip, and don't talk about someone who's not present.

  • Skills are perishable - When you stop practicing a certain skill, your abilities with that skill deteriorate. Stagnation is not the default state with regards to our abilities, decline is. Use it or lose it.

  • Discipline is table stakes - To become proficient at anything, you need to put in consistent effort. Even those blessed with exceptional natural ability cannot compete with the disciplined individual. "Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard" - Kevin Durant

  • The degree to which you retain information is proportionate to your engagement with it - Passively listening < Actively Reading < Writing about what you've read. The more time spent and the deeper your engagement with an idea, the more you will internalize that idea. Go deep.

  • First, do no harm - A large part of success is simply the avoidance of failure. Avoid self-sabotage, avoid taking risks with unrecoverable consequences, avoid doing harm. Simply avoiding ruin will put you in the upper echelon of achievers.

  • Invert, always invert! - To find out which actions to avoid, invert words of wisdom and best practices, then avoid these inverted principles. Ex. The inversion of working hard is being lazy, thus one should avoid being lazy. The inversion of being generous is to be cruel, thus one should avoid being cruel.

  • Balance present experience and long term goals - Live your life in such a way that when you're on your deathbed your regrets are minimal. If you constantly act on behalf of your future self you'll have no time to enjoy the present. But if you constantly indulge in the pleasures of the present, you'll endanger the wellbeing of your future self.

  • You don't know what you don't know - We interpret the world based on our prior experiences and accumulated knowledge. The first time we're exposed to a scenario, we react like a child: excited, fearful, curious, or angry. The best way to reduce unfamiliar scenarios and our correspondingly childish reactions is to constantly seek out new and diverse experiences.

  • You'll never regret a workout - Some days I absolutely dread going to the gym. I'm tired, unmotivated, or too comfortable at home. But every time I've felt this way and decided to power through anyways, I've felt better afterwards. It can be hard to see the light at the end of the workout when the last thing you feel like doing is exercise, but know it's there, always.

  • Distress is caused by the difference between your desires and reality - If your desires are inline with reality, you'll be at peace. But as soon as what you desire differs from reality, you'll enter a state of angst. The world is as it is, not how you want it to be.

  • Only a fool worries over what he can't control - All time and effort spent worrying over something you can't control is wasted. By definition, the outcome of things you can't control is unaffected by whether or not you worry about them. So save yourself the anxiety and focus on things you can control.

  • Discipline is freedom - The unintuitive reality that a life of structure and routine affords one more freedom than a life with no plan. Discipline, which I define as the consistent application of effort to a set of tasks that are performed routinely, ensures constant improvement and that what needs to get done gets done. A lack of discipline leads to a reactionary lifestyle, where one is a victim of their environment, constantly extinguishing one fire after another.

  • Take life seriously. - An inversion of the common cliché "Don't take life too seriously". To which I say "Fuck that, this is it, you're going to die." If you don't take command of your life and actively pursue your dreams, they won't happen.

  • History is the second greatest teacher - From the words of philosopher George Santayana, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Outside of doing, history is our greatest teacher. Studying history allows us to learn from the mistakes of others and avoid the consequences of their mistakes, without having to spend the time and energy that lead to them.

  • Live in the present - Stop reminiscing on the past or worrying about the future. The only thing that's guaranteed is right now. Enjoy the ride and ignore the destination.

  • Exceptional people are built in solitude - Extraordinary results require years of hard work. This work is often spent alone in dedication to a craft. Media portrays the achievements of exceptional people, while conveniently glossing over the thousands of hours they spent in solitude working on their craft to get there. You’re not going to write your Magnum Opus at the club.

  • Trust your gut - That gut feeling is your subconscious mind attempting to communicate to your conscious mind that something's not quite right. 90% of the time, your gut is right. Whether it be alerting you of a sinister peculiarity in a relationship or a dangerous environment, listen to it.

  • Complexity is easy, simplicity is hard - Anyone can create complexity, this happens by default, but it takes a concerted effort to create simplicity. Whether it be writing, programming, or any other act of creation, simplicity is more difficult to achieve than complexity.

  • Seek discomfort - Optimal growth comes from actively seeking discomfort. Aim to spend as much time as possible in the "Goldilocks zone", where what you're doing is just beyond what you thought you were capable of, but not so overwhelming that you become demotivated and quit. Stagnation is the result of comfort. No matter your level, there's always room for improvement.

  • Talk is cheap - Anyone can talk, but only those with the willingness to work hard and risk failure can do. Shut up and take action. As the great Marshawn Lynch says “I’m just bout that action boss.

  • The best is the enemy of the good - Perfection is the result of iteration, and will almost never be achieved on the first attempt. Don't waste so much time trying to select the perfect path from the get-go. You have to become good before you can become great.

  • Focus on the fundamentals - When learning about a new domain, focus first on mastering the fundamentals. It can be attractive to jump to the cutting edge of the field, but if you do so before understanding the fundamentals, you'll inevitably struggle. Ignore contemporary works until you've internalized the fundamentals.

  • Learn by writing - If you want to learn about something, write about it. Writing forces you to explicitly communicate your thoughts onto the page and has an uncanny ability for exposing what you don't know. Leverage this ability to find gaps in your knowledge. Once you can clearly articulate your thoughts on something in writing, you've learnt it.

  • Obsession is cultivated - Fyodor Dostoevsky, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein all possessed an unhealthy obsession with their respective crafts. They spent the majority of their waking hours practicing their discipline, and the remaining hours thinking about it. But none of these men were delivered from the womb with their respective obsessions. They cultivated obsession through following their curiosity, courageously choosing to pursue their dreams, and working hard to produce results.

  • Worship no man - We're all human, and thus all subject to imperfection. Worshipping your idols can cloud your judgment and instill a false sense of confidence in their recommendations and teachings. My favorite example of this is between Malcolm X and religious leader Elijah Muhammad. Elijah Muhammed had sentenced Malcolm's younger brother and best friend Reginald to "isolation" from all other Muslims for improper behavior. As a result, Malcolm disowned his own brother, demonstrating his extreme devotion to Elijah and the Nation of Islam. Years later, Malcolm discovered that Elijah was having affairs with teenage secretaries in the Nation of Islam, 6 of whom he impregnated. Malcolm had followed advice to disown his brother for "improper behavior" from a man whom he later uncovered to be a hypocrite with the morals of an alley cat.

  • Fear nothing - Fear influences our behavior more than we realize. The fear of judgement and the fear of failure are two especially treacherous fears. They usually manifest through a reluctance to share your thoughts with others or a hesitancy to try, in fear that you are incapable of succeeding. But we can reconcile in two truths about these fears; most people are too busy with their own lives to care or even remember whatever it is you fear being judged for and we learn more from our failures than we do our successes. Life's too short for fear, and the majority of our fears are illusory. Pay attention to the man behind the curtain.


← Back to home