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The Ascent
Aspire to something greater.

Courtesy of a former Canadian spy

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I’d never heard the idea of a “personal competitive advantage” before.

That is until I came across a Twitter by former Canadian Spy Shane Parrish. Most of you probably don’t know who Shane is. While working as a spy he started an unlikely blog about self-improvement. His main readership became finance people working on Wall Street. Scott’s motto is simple: upgrade yourself.

The philosophies he gave up his spy job to teach are focused “on how learning deeply, thinking widely and reading books strategically could improve decision-making skills,” according to the .

Even if you hate finance…

I have found happiness using these strategies.

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Do you ever feel noise running through your brain? Do you find it hard to go to sleep at night but can’t explain why? Do you experience brain fog? All of this can be caused by having a cluttered mind. You have too much activity in your life and your brain simply can’t relax.

You’re not alone. I used to experience this, too, and so do many others. I used to be so overwhelmed with my brain fog that I would cry by myself at night. I would be mentally exhausted all day, every day.

The good news is I…

Enough perfect days in a row make for a perfect life.

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I don’t always know when to turn it off. Something that always feels like it wasn’t enough — that I should push myself harder. How much should a person write in a day, anyway?

I had to make rules for myself. Achievable rules allow me to knock off way more “good days” than bad. During this pandemic, I’ve been working my ass off. At one point, I was writing 70 articles a month. That’s probably too much, and I was expecting too much.

Indifference to outcome greatly improves the quality of my output and my mood. Indifference to outcome is…

Start a “When was the last time I _____?” list.

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In Michelle Obama’s book Becoming, she describes the “Boot Camp” weekends she had during her time as First Lady. Every few months, she’d summon close friends to Camp David. They’d excuse themselves from their busy family and work lives with a “Sorry, everyone, I’m doing this one for me.

When was the last time you talked with a friend for hours?

When was the last time you had a day overflowing with fitness, spent in nature, or a day to do nothing but rest?

“When was the last time I _____?” is what I consider when I’m feeling like a…

Yes. Everything’s on the internet, and that’s the problem.

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I spent my first four months living in Japan without having internet at home. For the first two, I didn’t even have a sim card. That meant the moment I entered my apartment, I was cut from the entire world. No way to contact me. No way for me to contact anybody.

It. was. amazing.

These four months were among the best of my life up until that point. I had a fulfilling life outside my home and a rewarding time whenever I was home as well. …

A dating rut is natural but it doesn’t have to deter you.

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Dating can be exhausting, even more so if you’re going on one bad date after the next. But having read countless books and studies on dating, I refuse to believe that means you’re destined for a crappy dating life.

I prefer taking a different approach to things, one where you have more control than you think to get yourself out of a dating rut. Because dating should be a fun experience where you meet new people and learn more about yourself.

If you feel like dating is a chore, you’re not finding anyone worth pursuing, or you’ve run out of…

“Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place.”― Mandy Hale

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Getting lost isn’t about the time lost, it’s about the experience gained.

I’m not going to lie. I hated getting lost for the vast majority of my life. Apart from when I was traveling, each movement I did outside was with a goal: get to a target location without wasting my time.

I’m too busy to walk around. I’ll take strolls when I’m old.

That thought has completely disappeared now. Sure, when I meet friends, I might need to hurry. But in most cases, if you’re organized well enough, it’s okay to get lost a bit.

It’s actually even better…

No wonder — rejection while in flow hurts more than anything.

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I did a podcast with an old friend and felt on fire. I was in perfect flow the entire time. At the close, he said something that I incorrectly interpreted as rejection. Because I knew I had given the podcast everything I possibly could have given, I was crushed.

What really happened was he said, “Let’s record another hour!” which I thought meant, “I can’t use this one!” What he really meant was, “That was great; I want more!”

Thinking about it later, I realized that any sign of rejection of my very best would have crushed my spirit. That’s…

It’s all about connection.

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I won’t deny that it takes hustle to get what you want. You gotta grind! You gotta work! You gotta go for it!

But I’ve found that hard work is only one piece of the puzzle. What happens when I work hard and fail to get what I want, miss an opportunity, or can’t seem to make a meaningful difference in the world?

What happens when a global pandemic cancels everyone’s plans?

Self-help culture often tells us that we’re always manifesting an external reality, based on our internal one. So when things don’t go as planned, is there something wrong…

I hope you find these adages and quotes and snippets of wisdom as inspiring as I do.

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I turned 40 recently. Midlife is better than I imagined, largely because I face each morning with purpose and hope.

That wasn’t always the case. To arrive at now—a driven, calm, and relatively happy husband, father, writer, and entrepreneur—I’ve stolen and then applied snippets of wisdom from wherever I found them: books and magazines and movies but also the Fortune 500 CEOs and professional athletes I’ve interviewed, and the clarity I’ve gained from so many failures, professional and personal.

A short time after my birthday, I wrote up a list of this acquired wisdom, the best-of-the-best, the 40 lessons and…

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