140+ life lessons that defy common sense

Posted on October 25, 2016 By thesuccessmanual Topic: Remarkable, Quotes

Despite knowing that most of us routinely ignore common sense in real life, let me do my but: here are 140+ life lessons that defy common sense but are true nonetheless (the ones in bold are my favorite):

1. Being loud and obnoxious is surprisingly useful / effective most of the time

2. Money CAN buy happiness.
If you buy things that make life a better experience - conveniences, family day out...

Buy “experiences” instead of material items.
Buy many small pleasures instead of a few big ones.
Don’t make purchases simply to impress others.
Use money to improve your overall wellness.
Use money to build stronger relationships with loved ones.

3. Happiness = Outcome - Expectations.

4. You can accomplish more if you work less and sleep more.

5. Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
Without crossing any major ethical stricture.

6. You can pay the farmer, or you can pay the doctor.
Prevention (i.e. good diet and food ingredients) is an order of magnitude cheaper than treatment.

7. Your willpower/concentration is a finite resource, replenished when you sleep.

8. Behavior is controlled more by your environment than your own willpower.

9. Never use a cheap chair or a cheap mattress.

10. Work output does not scale linearly with manpower.

11. Children's personalities are influenced more by parents' actions than words.

12. Spoken communication has a massive non-verbal component.

13. Intelligence and skill level are subject to diminishing returns. (aka the Sheldon rule)

Beyond a certain threshold of intelligence and skill, the efficacy bottlenecks quickly become your ability to communicate, get along with others, prioritize, focus, structure your thinking in advance, manage your time well, etc.

14. The biggest risk is not taking one.

15. Self promotion works (see this with 31)

16. Success has little to do with waiting patiently. Not today.

17. You choose who you love.

18. What college you go to doesn't matter.

19. Retirement is boring

20. Focus on your strengths: much is made of people's weaknesses.

21. Being interesting is the result of being interested.

22. You can't be anything you want to be.

23. Annuities are a good investment.

24. Owning a home is not a stable path to wealth.
The entire mortgage and home equity industry, realtors, title insurance companies, and home inspectors all depend on perpetuating this myth. Even after controlling for the craziness in the housing market for the past few years, the post-inflation return of housing stock in the US is around 1%. That's not a great investment - that's a savings plan with low liquidity, high transaction costs, and huge fees in the form of ongoing maintenance.
- Anon

25. Laziness can be a very positive characteristic for a leader.
But only when it is combined with ambition and intelligence.

26. Be honest whenever you can, people will tend to believe you and allow you to be productive, instead of questioning you and breaking your flow (and life is a lot easier when you don't have to juggle so many different 'truths').

27. If you're wrong, admit it as soon as you realise. It's a sign of character and intelligence. Let the person who corrected know you're thankful, and that you're appreciative of their input.

28. Flaunt your weaknesses, everybody has them.
(also see #20)
If you let people know the things you're terrible at, not only will you seem honest, open and trustworthy, it'll be harder for negative people to find your legitimate insecurities and attack them.Suggestions Pending

29. What you can sit with, you can move beyond.
Accepting a feeling makes it easier to change, or work with.

30. The more tricks you give away the more people believe you have, not less.
You don;t get job security by hoearding all the knowledge. It's the same instinct that makes people buy a stock after a rapid appreciation. Teach others to be as successful as you (so-called successful bloggers and internet marketing 'geniuses' use this idea often), and they will be convinced of your greatness, and convinced that your bag of tricks could never run out even if it does. You'll earn good karma, and the reciprocation will be a win.

31. Winning a fight doesn't end it. Only a negotiated solution can provide a lasting peace.

32. Money and rewards are not effective ways to motivate people.
- Alfie Kohn, "Punished by Rewards"

33. Failure is necessary and even desirable.

34. People like narcissists.
because most of us are narcissists.

35. Conflict is not a bad thing. The ability to engage in productive conflict is a basic requirement for good teamwork and partnerships.

36. Meetings are terrible venues in which to pitch your ideas.

8 bits of contrarian wisdom from Tao Te Ching:


37. To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.

38. Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.

39. The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world.

40. The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.

41. To lead people walk behind them.

42. If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence.

43. He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.

44. Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.

45. Have no respect for the law.
Remember the 'good citizen's rule': Forget what the 'law' says and just treat everyone on the planet the same way you would want them to treat you.

46. Welcome embarrassment, annoyance, and disappointment. They are pointing to exactly where you need to focus your effort.

47. Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
- Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

48. Let the winds of evidence blow you about as though you are a leaf, with no direction of your own. Beware lest you fight a rearguard retreat against the evidence, grudgingly conceding each foot of ground only when forced, feeling cheated. Surrender to the truth as quickly as you can. Do this the instant you realize what you are resisting; the instant you can see from which quarter the winds of evidence are blowing against you. Be faithless to your cause and betray it to a stronger enemy. If you regard evidence as a constraint and seek to free yourself, you sell yourself into the chains of your whims.
- Eliezer Yudkowsky, The Twelve Virtues of Rationality

49. Everything is ironic because everything is meaningful to someone, but meaningless in the big scheme of things.

50. Lesson for the kids: If you think grown-ups have life pretty much figured out, guess again. They're just as clueless as you are, but they've built up habits and rationalizations that make it appear that they've got things pretty well worked out. The fact that grown-ups don't fundamentally know what they're doing can be a scary thought, but it can also be exhilarating and liberating!

51. Don't "Try Harder". Often, the act of "trying harder" forces you to focus on immediate outcomes, rather than the big picture. Sometimes, only "trying softer" will do. This is especially true if you're trying to win someone over to your way of thinking. Trying harder will most likely drive them further away.

52. Don't "Play it Safe". The safe route is the low-reward route. Only when there is some risk is there real reward. Maybe that's not so counter-intuitive, after all.

53. Getting laid off may be the best career move you'll ever make.

54. The prospect of sustained comfort should be terrifying, not attractive.

55. It is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.

56. What makes other people happy will probably make you happy.

57. Take riskier choices to improve gain and take predictable losses
People approach risk differently depending on whether or not they are winning or losing.

58. Nice people are by no means the BEST people to do business with.
They can be frustrating, slow, ineffective and drive you crazy.

59. Time is your most important wealth, not money.

60. The most profitable businesses are not the most profit-oriented. They follow their bliss.
- John Kay, Economist

61. If someone picks up a restaurant check, never offer to pay the tip. They are making a nice gesture by picking up the bill, and if you attempt to even things up by paying an extra 15-20%, you are lessening the gesture.

62. The most important lesson of history is that freedom and equality are enemies. Increasing equality decreases freedom, and vice versa. Yet most people's Utopia aims to maximise both.
- Will Durant

63. The only part of life you truly have a chance of controlling is inside your skin: your thoughts and your feelings. What's happening on the outside in the universe is mostly outside your direct sphere of influence, so you might as well learn to accept it and appreciate it. Ironically, you then might start making a difference. This is a recipe for happiness. Take care of the stuff that's your part, and don't get stressed out about stuff you can't control anyway.

64. Even if you are making an ass of yourself, it is important to stand out.

65. The "Homo oeconomicus" theory: People do not decide on economic (risk) decisions by following strict gain/loss probability calculations.

66. Just because someone is in charge/older than you/has all the power, doesn't mean they are 1) right, 2) working in your best interests, or, 3) aware of what's going on.

67. Life is not fair.
We can only control life to a certain extent and after that it is up to fate/destiny/random occurrence.

68. Quick sand. The more you struggle, the faster you sink.

69. Chinese handcuffs. The more you pull, the tighter they hold.

70. When the spurs gaff out when climbing a telephone pole, don’t grab the pole. It was called “burning the pole” in lineman’s jargon.

71. Your happiness is completely up to you.
(also see the one about money and happiness)

“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” - Hugh Downs

72. Yield to temptation. It may not come your way again. We always regret the things we wish we had done far more than those we actually did.

73. Money isn't the root of all evil, the LOVE of money is. (my favorite)


74. The fact that someone is a hypocrite doesn't make them wrong all the time. In fact, there's a good chance that they're right in either their actions or in what they say.

75. Acquiring foreign language is difficult.

But, the difficulty of acquiring foreign languages is more psychological than practical.

76. Just because two people have good personalities and love each other does not mean that they can live and be happy together.

77. The golden rule (treat others as you would like to be treated) is not absolute: it does not guarantee that you will treat other people right. Everybody has a different idea about what's right.

78. When you feel that things are bad, you should be thankful -- it could've been worse. It can always be worse...

79. Increase in choices does not make you happier.

80. Life's best when you pretty much forget about yourself.


81. Visionaries, courageous people and the honest can expect to suffer rather than win accolades.

82. The person with the fancy car and the big house is not necessarily the wealthy one.

83. Windfalls and inheritances are a terrible way to get rich.

84. When choosing a gift for somebody, look anywhere but the section labeled "gifts."
Most products trumpeted gifts are there because nobody would buy them for him/herself.

85. Live with vulnerability.

86. It's not weak to clearly, and often, express your love to the people you love.

87. Hard work > Talent
Aka the 10000 hours (of practice) rule.

88. Value is clearly connected to the perceived effort placed in acquiring it.

89. Surrender to win.

90. LUCK is over rated. It is more about 'giving it a shot' than getting lucky.

91. On a psychological level, the objective of "falling in love" is NOT to create a sustainable human relationship.

92. Suffering often leads to strength and enlightenment.

93. Some problems actually do go away if you ignore them for long enough.

94. It's not who you know, and it's not what you know, it's who knows what you know.

95. You may think you're a rational human being, but you're really not. You're affected by the tricks of the game, including things like scarcity, social influence, your emotional/arousal state and being effected by how an item is framed when you initially hear about it.
You're horribly biased. The good news is so is everyone else.

96. When you're driving a car and start to skid on ice, you should steer into the skid and take your foot off the brake - that's the best way to regain traction.

97. Your looser & larger network of contacts will be much more useful than your VIP best friend.
People you are loosely connected to are the ones that can get you your dream house, dream job or dream date.

98. Give love to those that hurt you.

99. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.

100. Often, bad behavior is rewarded, and bad actors escape punishment.

102. The world is flat. And not in the silly Friedman way.
At all levels - politics, economics, society -- the most important dimension remains the local one.

103. The opposite of love is fear, not hate.

104. Do what you want to do, do what you want to do, and do what you want to do.

105. Rejection builds confidence.

106. Being a big fish in a small pond is underrated.
"Bigger person walks away" doesn't work in real life.

107. "Be More, Seem Less" (be humble)

108. Go to bed angry.

You’ll be more reasonable and see things in a better light after a good night’s sleep.

109. That which seems most impossible may be your greatest strength.

110. "People aren't against you; they are for themselves." (my favorite)

111. One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure its worth watching.

112. "Perfection is the enemy of excellence."
- Voltaire

113. "You have what it takes to run your own business."

114. "Never mistake a banker for someone who is going to help you."

Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari

115. "Own your life, or someone will own it for you."

116. "If it hurts, do it more."

117. "A problem shared is still your problem."

118. You only hate what you see in yourself

119. "Your gender has nothing to do with your career unless you do your job with your genitals"
- Anon

120. "Your childhood may not have been perfect, but it's over."

121. "Do not regret growing old. It is a privilege denied to many."

122. If you're good at something, never do it for free.

123. “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing.. that’s why we recommend it daily ”

124. “Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you it can’t be done, and why. Then do it.”
– Robert A. Heinlein.

125. "Life is a grindstone; whether it grinds you down or polishes you up depends on what you're made of."
- Jacob M. Braude

126. The only place you can start from is where you are.

127. Everything will be alright in the end, so if it's not alright then it's not yet the end.

128. "Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it"
- Courage Wolf

129. “In the end... a girl just wants to be loved.”

130. "First deserve and then desire"

131. "Always tell the truth. That makes it the other person's problem."

132. "Stop taking things personally."

133. "Go to where your fear is" - Nicolas Gregoriades

134. You have to realise that one day you will die
- Chuck Palahniuk in Fight Club

135. A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.

136. "Washing the dishes to wash the dishes !" - Thich Nhat Hanh

137. "Be the change that you want to see in the world"

138. "Earn it"

139. Don't convince skeptics, look for believers.

140. The thing you can share with everyone - Love
The thing you should only share with few people - knowledge/information
The thing you should share with anyone - your anger
- The Pursuit of Happiness (film)

141. Never trust the Government.

142. Success should be a moving target.


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