The other day I received an email from a reader with 10 questions she wanted me to answer. No introduction. No small talk.
Just a list of questions and “Thanks for your time” at the bottom.
Naturally, my first response was, “What?!”
But as I read the questions more carefully, I thought, “I can turn this into an article.” I was truly impressed by the quality of the questions of my reader, Mary.
So I wrote back to thank her for the inspiration. Here are my answers:
1. What’s the one quality that everyone must have?
Persistence, perseverance, determination, grit — call it whatever you want.
For centuries, humans have discovered that’s the one quality that separates people who get what they want from the people who don’t.
I’m not even talking about becoming successful. For example, the Stoics strived for achieving tranquility — not financial success or recognition.
But living a tranquil life is hard. And it takes a lot of hard work to achieve a state of tranquility. You see, persistence is what makes that possible.
When you give up without a good reason, you’ll never know how your life could end up.
2. What’s the one book you suggest everyone read?
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
I’ve often recommended Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl, The Story Of My Life by Helen Keller, or On The Shortness Of Life by Seneca, but these books have already received enough attention in this space.
The reason I mention Crime and Punishment is that it’s a book about thinking. Sure, it’s a novel, and it’s about murder. But the book goes so deep that you can’t help but get touched by Dostoyevsky’s writing.
This book needs to be read consecutively. Preferably, you want to read it for at least two hours a day. And don’t read anything else during the time you read this book. You’ll never forget the period that you were reading it.
3. What’s one powerful piece of advice for living a fulfilling life?
Get clear on what you want.
People who always hesitate, can’t make up their mind, and who are all over the place, will be left behind.
Decide what you want. And be firm with your execution. Don’t deviate from the path. For nothing and no one. If others can’t accept that, they are not the right people in your life.
4. What’s one piece of important financial advice?
Don’t try to make money.
That’s because of a well-known paradox: He who tries too hard will fail.
When you try hard to make money, you’ll become unethical and focus on the wrong things. When you focus on providing genuine value, you will be rewarded for your help.
But remember that you need money to eat and grow. Don’t act like a charity.
5. What’s one skill that everyone must have?
Not because we write so many texts, emails, and messages. No, writing is thinking.
So when you become a better writer, you’ll also become a better thinker.
How does one become a better writer? By writing more.
6. What’s one thing that you regret starting late or wished you started earlier?
I’m not talking about stocks or real estate. I’m talking about adopting the mindset of an investor.
I never thought of everything you do in life as investing. Working out, reading, taking classes, spending time with people who matter to you—it’s all investing because these activities have a return.
Buying a fancy car, going to restaurants multiple times a week, mindless online shopping — these are things that have little to no return.
7. What’s one thing you learned the hard way?
Doing something is different than reading about it.
Sometimes you read about something that sounds nice. Starting a business, moving to a specific country, working remotely, etc.
I always read and heard stories about how great it is to live in London. Then, I actually did it. And then, I found that many people in the city struggled to pay rent, started relationships only because they could save on their living expenses, and kept doing useless shit so they didn’t feel depressed.
Of course, this is not true for everyone in big cities. But it’s the way many people my age live. And that’s something none of them will admit.
8. What’s one thing that should never be forgotten?
You’re never alone.
Life gets hard sometimes. And for some of us, our natural instinct is to solve everything by ourselves.
Don’t do that. No one in the history of mankind became happy or successful without help. Realize that you’re not alone.
Seek out people who share the same values as you. Become friends. They will help you when the time is right. And vice versa.
9. What’s one thing we must not think twice on spending?
This is obvious, but my answer is “books”.
A few years ago, I acted like a cheapskate when it came to books.
I remember picking up Antifragile by Nassim Taleb in a bookstore once. I decided I couldn’t spend 10 bucks on that book. I probably went to a Starbucks after that to drop $5 on a fancy drink.
Anyway, I recently bought Antifragile. It made a big impact on my thinking.
I was an idiot for not buying/reading that book earlier. Do yourself a favor, if you see a book that might help you—buy it.
10. What’s your definition of life in 50 words?
No one knows what they are doing.
That’s life in 7 words. And it’s something I truly believe in. It’s what keeps me sane.
In the past, I always believed that everybody had it more figured out than me. But it turns out that no one has definite answers to the biggest challenges in life.
Why are we here? What’s the meaning of life? What should you do?
No one knows. We can all guess! And that’s what a lot of people do. I’m the same. However, we must know that everyone you see around you is no different from you.
That means we’re all the same. We’re trying to figure things out. That’s precisely what this article was about.