Charles Chu
Nov 26, 2016 · 4 min read

Two years ago, I quit my job, got rid of 95% of my things, traveled to 7 countries, learned to program, tripled my freelancing rate, read 200+ books, and wrote over a million words.

And I’m just getting started.

I’m not here to brag. The point is, I wasn’t born with it.

Two years ago, I was working a dead-end job. Two years before that, I was a hopeless college student, eating crap, hating my life, skipping class, and playing video games (League of Legends, anyone?) for 10 hours a day.

Where did this massive change come from?

VISION — targets, sails, ethics, philosophy…

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.Seneca

99% of people don’t realize: How can you change if you don’t know where you are going?

People who fail don’t know what they want from life. They’ve never even stopped to think about it. They copy what’s in fashion, fail, and spew fucking excuses about why life isn’t fair.

Don’t be that person. Figure out what port you are sailing for.

Here’s how —

  • Find your heroes. Don’t know what you want? Can’t put it into words? I didn’t either. But I bet you’ve been massively inspired by certain kinds of people. Maybe it was that movie that sent shivers down your spine. Or that Rothfuss novel that sent you bouncing off the sofa. Maybe it was that Superman comic in 4th grade. Seek out people who inspire you. Study them.
  • Read. A lot. That year, stuck in a dead-end job and lost for where to go with my life, I turned to…books. And I read. A lot. More than 200 books that year, in fact. Most books were alright. Sometimes, though, a book would completely change how I saw the world. Books like NNT’s Antifragile, SM’s Gateless, TF’s The 4-Hour Workweek. Slowly, I started to figure it out. My direction. My vision.
  • Challenge assumptions. Progress doesn’t come from the status quo. If you take the average road…guess what? You get average results. Sheep are sheep are sheep. Ask, “What do most people believe that isn’t true?” Start thinking different. Seeing different.
  • Build your philosophy. Where does massive action come from? Where is the wellspring of motivation? At the bottom of it all is your belief. You’ve found your heroes. You’ve read a lot of books. You’ve asked questions. Now…find your principles. What makes you shiver with excitement every morning? Where does deep satisfaction come from? How will you add value to the world? Write your principles down. Tear them apart. Rebuild them. Your philosophy is everything; make sure it doesn’t suck.

Okay, you’ve started to see the world differently. People are starting to look at you strange. Kids, we’re just getting started. What’s next?

ACTION — plans, brains, networks, carrots, sticks…

Some will get this far. They manage to build their mental fortress, their mental framework for seeing the world. But then…nothing happens. We want results. We want change. But we can’t. WHY? Because we suck at execution. And execution is 90% of the game…

I’ve spent hours writing this, and I’ve got to go.

For now, a summary —

  • Learn about human nature. The human animal doesn’t like change. Change is hard. If you want to change, you’ll need to take the reins and lead your monkey brain in the right direction.
  • Learn about cognition. How does the brain work? Reward centers? Punishment? What are mistakes that the brain makes? What are common fallacies? Where are the places we reliably fail, so we can take precautions.Learn about habits, motivation, willpower, creativity, biochemistry, fear, loathing and on and on and on…
  • Use the minimum effective dose. You’ve got a lot to do and only a lifetime to do it. Figure out the 20% of efforts that will get you 80% of improvements. Flip those levers.
  • Get feedback. Change something. Keep what works. Reject what didn’t. Repeat.
  • Build the skills you need. You won’t have all the tools you need starting out. Find them. Don’t wait for teachers to shove them down your throat. Half of them don’t know what they’re doing. Real life doesn’t come with syllabi.
  • Surround yourself with excellence. Paraphrasing Jim Rohn, “You are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Spend time with people who bring you down, and you will become down. Find the lifters instead.
  • Track things. How can you measure progress without metrics? Learn to reflect on your day, your week, your month, your year. Where did your time go? How much writing did you do? Did you waste any time? You need to see the problems before you can change…

The Polymath Project

Figuring out how to live in a world we don't understand

Charles Chu

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Rethinking the obvious @

The Polymath Project

Figuring out how to live in a world we don't understand

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