Notes to Self on Self

This document should be amended as you age.

  1. Your values are implemented in action. Act towards the things you value—generosity, empathy, kindness, energy, efficacy, avoiding excess, acceptance, sustainability, interestingness, etc.

  2. Do what you say you will. The best way to start working in this direction is being very, very careful about what you say “yes” to. Be liberal and gentle with saying “no”.

  3. Seek out primary sources whenever possible. This goes for oral and printed media. A newspaper is a secondary source. Don’t read the science digest, read the science. If you can’t understand a primary source, this is a great learning opportunity. Study what you need to understand.

  4. Aim for a balanced life. Don’t find balance by standing in the middle of everything—instead, hit the extremes and let them stabilize each other. (Some exceptions apply.) Balance is active, not a static state.

  5. Constantly sewing seeds is a good way to promote a garden. Start projects and conversations. Ask yourself leading questions and learn new things relentlessly. The flip side of this is that things need to die as well, so that new things can emerge.

  6. Have a borrowing mindset. Treat things and people with kindness and agility. Stay liquid and don’t buy until you’ve tried. Don’t get something until you’ll need it, and celebrate what you have.

  7. Take good care of your body and mind, they need to last your entire life. This means both working them hard and allowing them to relax.
    6a. Don’t overeat. Eat good food. Sleep enough. Stretch. This is not a place for extremes, contrary to item number 3.
    6b. This also includes a judicious intellectual diet. Don’t read it unless you think it will be good or important.

  8. Keep a beginner’s spirit but don’t be afraid to fold inwards when necessary.

  9. Make it easy to act well, and do not dwell in previous actions; just apply learned lessons to those ahead. Think slowly and act quickly.

  10. Work towards an experimental reality. Push edges of what you think about and how you think about it. Break rules when necessary. Use your life as n=1.

  11. The thoughts you have, actions you take, people you talk to, and culture you immerse yourself in make permanent marks on you and your identities. Your experiences and thoughts are objects of their own right, and deserve attention.
    10a. “Everything you can imagine is real.” - Picasso

  12. Invest in entropy. Work towards antifragility. A fairly minimal lifestyle assists in this.

  13. Whenever possible, use your time, energy, and money to learn, educate, and act to the benefit of those without the ability to do the same for others.

  14. Regularly reflect and reflect-in-action. You know about many healthy patterns and need to self-check yourself into enacting them, in real time.

  15. ”Solving for” beats “Planning for”—as in, planning is frequently a way to delay action. Start immediately and consider it part of the process.

  16. Recognize the value in habits. Build habits that work with your strengths and weaknesses and construct reflection time. Doing big things requires a lot of time—best achievable through regular small chunks of time.

    15a. Note the cost of context-switching! Block your time.
    15b. Routines and serendipity are not mutually exclusive.

  17. You shouldn’t read without writing, nor observe without note-taking. Synthesis comes through making.

  18. Do stuff with your friends. That's why you have them. Talk and start projects; generate energy between yourselves. Go to events. Entertain questions. And laugh.

Do you have any advice for my early 20s life?
Hector Quintanilla
Hector Quintanilla, Founder at
Updated Mar 3 · Upvoted by Amala Pulavarthi, 17 years teen!
He was furious.

“You're getting old, Dad! Stop telling me to quit using social media,” my teenager told me.

“There’s nothing wrong with social media, Dad!” he continued. “Everyone uses these devices… maybe you are the one with the problem,” he retorted.

“Son, life is like a ladder. The higher you go, the easier your life will be — the lower you are on this ladder of value, the higher the odds you will struggle in the future.”

That got his attention.

“Ladder of value? What do you mean, Dad?”

The same lesson I gave my son, will answer your question: do you have any advice for my early 20s life?

“We all have the same twenty-four hours a day. No matter who you are, time makes NO distinctions. The ground is leveled. When we're young, we feel like time is infinite, but never underestimate your time. It’s your most precious resource of life.”

“What does this have to do with my smartphone?” he asked.

“Every morning when you wake up, imagine you have a ladder in front of you. You face the daily challenge of going up this ladder of value.”

“How do I go up?” he asked.

“Each step you go up, the more valuable you will be to this world.”

He was still mad, complaining and getting impatient, “Why is that important?”

“You will earn a living by exchanging value with others. We pay people for the value they deliver through their job. The higher the value of their work, the more we pay them. Likewise, we deliver valuable products and services to others through our business. The more value we deliver, the more they pay us. It's simple.”

“What does this have to do with social media?”

“You are only consuming. That's the problem. Every hour you consume other people's value, it’s like going down the ladder. When you grow your value or deliver value to others, consider going up.”

He stood there thinking for a few seconds.

“At the end of the day,” I continued, “I want you to be aware and ask yourself daily, ‘Are you ending this day above or below the day before?’”

“Ouch,” he said with his eyes popping out.

“Have this picture in your mind. Are you making progress climbing the ladder every day?”

He smiled and I gave him a hug.

“That’s the whole point, Son. I encourage you to invest your time wisely.”

“The key in life is to become a person of value.”

“Money and people are attracted to value.”

“The more value you give to this world, the more the world will pay for you.”