My Life Advice — Simple directives to keep you on track

Michael Staub
Jun 28 · 8 min read

Today is my 29th birthday. To celebrate I have compiled some advice and wisdom that I would like to share in the form of simple, actionable directives. Hopefully, you find this useful or at least interesting.

First, who am I and why should you listen to me?

My name is Mike Staub and I have been living and working in San Francisco, CA since 2012. Here are some labels I identify with, in no special order:

software engineer, he/him, effective altruist, artist, musician, athlete, entrepreneur, introvert, scientist, gamer, psychonaut, investor, leader

And here are some of my notable accomplishments to help convince you I’m someone worth listening to:

Ran 8 marathons before turning 23, with a personal record of 3:09: 17

Played lead trumpet in many bands, mainly focused on jazz.

Worked in the visual effects industry at BlueSky studios and Lucasfilm. Am in the movie credits for Transformers 4.

Quit my job and pivoted into web development. Worked at YC-funded startup GrubMarket, where I single-handedly reimplemented their entire frontend in 3 months to help them raise their series A.

Worked on a project to digitize all of the items in the Smithsonian museum collection, including the Apollo 11 Lunar Command Module.

Spent 6 months traveling the world, learning Spanish, and working on side-projects during a very fulfilling sabbatical.

Joined Bright Machines as one of the first engineers, to help disrupt the manufacturing industry.

Built my own event-based social network on nights and weekends, which is launching soon! peapods.com

If you are a young professional or just someone interested in being the best version of yourself, you should at least consider my viewpoints. I do not claim to be a genius or anything extraordinary, but I have learned and experienced quite a bit thus far. I am writing this with my 21-year-old self in mind.

Table of Contents

  1. Career
  2. Productivity
  3. Health
  4. Financial
  5. Relationships
  6. Philosophy
  7. Meaning of Life

Let’s start with pragmatic, actionable advice.

Career

  1. Spend at least 1 hour every day working on side-projects, and one day on the weekend. Take Sundays completely off to relax, socialize, and plan your next week.
  2. Do not follow your passion. Choose an in-demand skill, and through deliberate practice become so good they can’t ignore you. In the tech industry, this is primarily design, coding, and sales.
  3. For your first job, work at a large, successful, public company with a good culture and a good team. Do this for 1–2 years then consider joining or founding a startup.
  4. Find a mentor, don’t wait for them to find you — be proactive. A good mentor will respect your initiative.
  5. Do not optimize for money the first 3 years of your career. Instead, focus on learning and growing your network.
  6. Explore many domains ( not skillsets ), but once you find one that really interests you, focus primarily on that.
  7. Find your thought leaders. Every industry has them. Podcasts, youtube, twitter, and mailing lists are all you need.

Productivity

  1. Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This is critical.
  2. Practice daily meditation. Just 5–10 minutes every morning is enough. Use an app like Headspace, Calm, or Waking Up to get started. This practice has a compounding effect that will make all other aspects of your life better.
  3. Use the Pomodoro technique to stay focused, especially when doing deep work. Start with 20 minutes on, 5 minutes off. Your goal is to get to 1 hour on, 15 minutes off.
  4. Only drink one cup of coffee in the morning. Use this as a ritual to ground your routine. Do not become dependent on caffeine, or any other chemicals.
  5. Have a TODO list with monthly, weekly, and daily sections. Before you fall asleep, plan 3 goals for the next day. Never have more than 3 goals planned for one day. Every Sunday plan your 15 tasks for the week.
  6. Read the book Habits. This will change your understanding of yourself and humans in general. Without this knowledge, you will be a slave to your subconscious and biology.
  7. Adopt a “push not pull” system. Don’t go to reddit, facebook, or twitter to browse. Have important updates sent to you in batches on regular intervals. Use ketchup.today for this.
  8. Be careful what you allow into your mind. Cultivate your mental and emotional garden by curating your content sources carefully. Do not allow AI algorithms to mold you into what they want you to be. Always ask yourself, “Why am I seeing this now, and who wanted me to see it?”

Health

  1. You must exercise at least 3 times per week, ideally every other day. Do weight training at least once per week. Deadlifts are the most important exercise by far. You must train cardio at least once per week for 30 minutes.
  2. Try to do at least one fun and social form of exercise per week. Try Brazilian jiu-jitsu for at least 2 classes. Not only is it an incredible workout, but it is also technical, pragmatic, and most importantly — it helps keep your ego in check!
  3. Adopt a plant-based diet. ( or as close to it as you can ) If you take nothing else from this blog post, let this be it. It’s impossible to ethically justify the consumption of animal products. Culture, habits, and tradition are not excuseswe used to own slaves. Think for yourself, hold yourself to a higher standard, and lead by example. There are tremendous productivity and health benefits that are scientifically undeniable. Factory farming is destroying our planet. Be the solution, not the problem. Read ‘How Not to Die’ by Dr. Michael Gregor for more info.

Financial

  1. Live far below your means. Embrace minimalism. Rampant capitalistic consumerism is immoral and will not lead to happiness or fulfillment.
  2. Pay down any and all debt as quickly as possible, start with the highest interest loans first. Financial freedom is a noble and attainable goal for most individuals living in the USA.
  3. Once you have no debt, put 6 months worth of living into a high-interest ( > 2% ) savings account. I recommend sofi.com.
  4. Once you have 6 months saved up, max out your 401k, put the rest of your money in index funds and get back to work. Do not try to play the stock market. Greed is dangerous. You have time on your side, let compound interest work its magic.
  5. If you are especially well-off, consider putting 1–8% of your net-worth into risky assets like eary-stage startups. Read Angel, by Jason Calacanis ( the greatest angel investor ever ) and use seedinvest.com or republic.com. Do plenty of research and assume you will lose most or all of this money. You are paying to learn valuable lessons.
  6. When starting a new job, always negotiate your salary. Your employer always makes the first offer expecting you to negotiate, never leave money on the table. This is especially true for women who statistically negotiate less, which contributes to the wage gap.

Relationships

  1. Learn to be content and confident alone before seeking a partner. Solitude can be a powerful tool for personal growth.
  2. You must respect yourself and others at all times. No relationships, romantic or otherwise, can flourish without this foundation.
  3. Make time for people in your life that matter, and be sure to remind them how important they are to you. Any of us could be gone in an instant. Don’t leave words unsaid.
  4. When it comes to dating, try to find someone who you admire, is trustworthy, and helps cultivate your better nature. This is not easy and requires active effort. It will not just happen to you.

Philosophy

  1. Never stop learning and keep feeding your curiosity. Life, consciousness, and reality, in general, is a literal miraculous mystery. Do not take the opportunity you have been given for granted!
  2. Expand your consciousness. Research and experiment with psychedelic plants. The path I recommend has 3 phases of growth. 1st is cannabis, 2nd is mushrooms, and the 3rd and final is DMT ( ayahuasca is the final stage ). Do not abuse any of these plants, they are powerful and potentially dangerous tools that must be taken extremely seriously. Cannabis is legal in many states and mushrooms are decriminalized in Denver, CO, and Berkeley, CA. You will have to travel to the Amazon rain forest to experience ayahuasca with real shamans. These plants will humble you completely, heal you, and most importantly, reconnect you to the natural world. The mystical experience is a real thing, and no one understands it at all. It is your birthright as a human to see for yourself before you die, what all the mystics are talking about. Do not allow your personal fear or your culture to deny you an experience as profound and important as this. Do your own research, be prepared, and be brave.
  3. What is reality and what does it mean that you are here to ask the question? What are your thoughts on simulation theory? There are no ‘answers’ to these questions, and even so, they demand serious thought.

Meaning of Life

  1. What kind of person do you wish to be, and what kind of life do you want to live? You must have answers to these questions. Do not let others answer these for you.
  2. The path to happiness and fulfillment in life is through our relationships with others. This is why you should embrace minimalism, to help you focus on what really matters in life — shared experiences with people you cherish. Your life’s legacy will be defined by the love that you gave and received in your brief moment on earth. Do not lose sight of this, everything else in your life should be in service of this fundamental truth.
  3. We are, put simply, really smart apes. Morality is an invention that has 7 core components. These components are true for all cultures around the world. Abiding by them is a very good start, and a way to help simplify your life:

Help your family.

Help your group.

Return favors.

Be brave.

Defer to superiors.

Divide resources fairly.

Respect others’ property.

Personal Content Recommendations

Books

Wellness

Brain Food

Leadership

Software

Business

Podcasts

Twitter Accounts

Web Developer Community

Music

My Favorites Playlist

Youtube Channels

ColdFusion — great technology and science videos

The School of Life — great life advice

TEDx — Inspiring talks

PBS Spacetime — Astrophysics for normal people

Useful Tools

View Mac OSX CPU Stats

OSX: Snap windows to side

Chrome Extensions

TransOver
ColorZilla
Discoverly
MightyText — SMS from PC & Text from Computer
Refind
HTTPS Everywhere
Google Docs Offline
No Coin — Block miners on the web!
LastPass: Free Password Manager
Scroll To Top
Checker Plus for Google Calendar™
SMS from Gmail ™ & Facebook™ ( MightyText )
Smile Always
Gmail Sender Icons
Grammarly for Chrome
Zoom Scheduler
LinkedBetter
Application Launcher for Drive (by Google)
Marinara: Pomodoro® Assistant
Refind New Tab
Save to Pocket
Reddit Comment Collapser
Toggl Button: Productivity & Time Tracker
Checker Plus for Gmail™
IMDb ratings on Netflix
Enhancer for YouTube™
Checker Plus for Google Drive™

For Developers:

Convert Medium Posts to Markdown
Refined Bitbucket
Pesticide for Chrome
Octotree
Lighthouse
GitHub Diff Whitespace Disabler
Share Extensions
uBlock Origin
User-Agent Switcher
Vimium
Module Linker
Puppeteer Recorder
Awesome Autocomplete for GitHub
three.js inspector
Gitpod Online IDE
Sight
React Performance Devtool
File Icon for GitHub, GitLab and Bitbucket
GitHub SLOC
React Developer Tools
Refined Hacker News
Refined GitHub
Hacker News Collapsible Comments
GraphQL Network
Apollo Client Developer Tools
GitHub Code Folding
Redux DevTools
Follow Me or Not
Selection Highlighter
Better Pull Request for GitHub
Rubberduck
Github Dark Theme
ZenHub for GitHub

    Michael Staub

    Written by

    Engineer. Investor. Founder peapods.com