The things every high-achiever should know
My latest obsession is the HBO series John Adams. In it, Adams, upon asked if he studies the arts during his visit to France, replies with the following quote (which I later verified to be historically accurate):
“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
Five days after hearing this quote, I’ve found myself unable to get it out of my head because it represents such a powerful truth about life. Adams was, at the time, facing the monumental challenge of shaping a new nation. When facing a challenge of this proportion, it becomes essential to immerse yourself in what is necessary, rather than what is desired. Anyone could tell you that it would be foolish for Mr. Adams to spend his free time learning poetry or sculpting when there is so much at stake.
Although a clear majority of people aren’t trying to form a new nation, they’re trying to accomplish their own monumental task: living a life filled with happiness and accomplishment. I feel that by using Adams’ advice as a template, we can give ourselves guidance as to how we can invest our time into achieving our goals and shaping ourselves into the people we wish to become.
For example, here is how I would use Adams’ quote as a template:
“I must study nutrition, fitness, the subconscious, and motivational psychology now to keep my body and mind healthy, and undo any mental blocks that have been holding me back my entire life. This will allow my future self the freedom to study real estate, marketing, and foreign languages, so that I may increase earning potential, invest my money wisely, and acquire means to explore the world. This will allow my further future self the opportunity to spend more time on passions and emerging interests, such as writing, wine tasting, classic literature, and cultural foods.”
I found it quite enlightening to outline a path of lifelong learning, in which different areas take the center stage at different points in my life. I recommend taking a five minute break from this blog post to open up a document on your computer and write out your own statement of lifelong learning.
Additionally, there is a second lesson to be learned here. At first glance, the idea explored in this blog post seems to argue that sacrificing recreation and non-essentials in the present moment is a good idea. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. It must be kept in mind that the most important thing in Adams’ life was his family. Throughout the tumultuous formation of the United States, he invested a great deal of time and effort into keeping in touch with his wife and spending time with his family. This represents lesson number two: no matter how monumental and challenging your situation may be, always make room for your happiness in the present moment. Whether that’s spending time with friends, family, hobbies, or any mix of these, find what makes you happy and always make room for it in your life.
Upon further analysis, a few general rules begin to form. I doubt this framework will apply to everybody, but see it as a good starting point for creating your own statement of lifelong learning.
1) A foundational education of yourself must be first, because it gives a tremendous return over your lifetime when done early. As Harry Truman once said:
“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves. Self-discipline, with all of them, came first.”
Examples of this kind of learning include studying behavioral psychology, meditating to discover negative thought patterns, discovering and altering areas of life that cause you great anxiety, self-hypnosis, and more.
2) Becoming an expert in business, money management, and career comes next. These skills will give you the means to add value back into the world and properly manage the wealth that you will receive in return for that value.
3) Topics of interest can take the center stage in the final stage of life learning, once one is confident in their abilities, career path, and financial situation.
4) Always make room in the present for what’s important to you and your happiness. This blog, going to the gym, and keeping an active social life are the three non-negotiables in my life right now.
For more advanced readers, I recommend complementing your new found statement of lifelong learning with additional motivation that you will need to successfully apply the knowledge you acquire. Unlimited Drive, my free ebook, has become a go-to resource for many who have chosen to download it. I highly recommend it as a starting point for jump starting your motivation.
I'm Jon Guerrera, a life hacker at heart, and the man behind the scenes here at Living For Improvement. This blog documents all of my successes, failures, experiments and lessons learned as I hack my way to happiness, fulfillment and success.
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Unlimited Drive is the result of four years of diligent research on what drives people to achieve great things. I always wondered how the most successful people in the world could reach such high levels of success and accomplishment. Well, I found the answer and wrote an ebook so I could pass it on to you (for free).
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