There is no universal truth – There’s only what works for you

There are basic principles in life— successful people apply them differently.

What works for Warren Buffett may not necessarily work for Ray Dalio. They are both extremely successful investors but they are pursuing different goals. They have a lot in common but they apply the fundamental investment principles differently.

I apply their investment lessons based on my investment goals and values. I like index funds, but you might prefer individual stocks — there’s no right or universal way way to invest.

We can all learn a lot from both Buffett and Dalio to make better investment decisions. I’m rereading Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio but in the end, I will apply his principles that work for my specific circumstances.

There is no single best way to save or invest. And there’s no right way to be productive or do your best work.

Don’t limit yourself to single life or career rule. Find out what can work for your personal circumstances and can give you the greatest return on your time, energy, and attention.

There is no shortage of books, articles and podcasts on what we should be doing for a happier, meaningful or successful life.

When something works for you (no matter your social or economic status), you have a tendency to believe it’s the right choice for everyone else, so you are likely to talk about it passionately.

There is nothing wrong with teaching others what works. It’s one of the best ways we learn and evolve as a human race.

Many businesses have been built on learning from others but the unique and outstanding ones are building products and services that make them stand out. They place extraordinary importance on the one thing that makes them memorable.

Define your own true north

“Think for yourself to decide 1) what you want, 2) what is true, and 3) what you should do to achieve #1 in light of #2 . . . . . . and do that with humility and open-mindedness so that you consider the best thinking available to you,” writes Ray Dalio, in his book Principles: Life and Work.

“The most important thing is that you develop your own principles and ideally write them down…” he says.

By all means, learn from experts, mentors, coaches and successful people, but invest more time finding and doing what works for you — creating your unique experiences, following your own true north and doing more of what brings out the best in you.

Good decisions and proactive actions are not always rational — they are relative. There are many roads to many successful lives.

No matter what you learn from others, at some point, you have to choose between applying principles that apply to your long-term goals in life or using rules recommended by “experts” who have no idea where you are headed in life. Give yourself permission to consider options that may work for you.

“…if you allow yourself to consider other options, you give yourself multiple paths to success. Yes, you could use the “right” method — or you could take a different path to reach the same goal,” argues J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly.

We’re all different and have independent destinations in life. We all have our own unique struggles. I don’t believe in absolute right and same answers for everyone.

I don’t think the world is black and white, but filled with shades of grey.

Binary thinking can distort your reality. Binary thinkers split almost everything into two while they seldom examine their own behaviour and attitudes because it’s a lot easier to make a quick judgement and stay there. It requires less energy and thought.

The key to thinking in grey is first to allow your mind to entertain even the outrageous ideas, and only then apply the constraints of practicality, legality, cost, time, and ethics.

For every idea, opinion or argument, ask yourself: Do I know this for sure, or have I simply landed on a comfortable spot?

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions in life. You personal situation and goals determine the rules you should be applying in your life.

Tim Ferriss’sproductivity rules may not work you, because you are a unique individual, with different energy patterns, different needs and goals. But you can experiment and test them with an open mind, and choose to try something else if they don’t bring out the best in you.

“When you get trapped by the belief that there’s just one right way to do something, you set yourself up for failure,” says Roth.

Don’t be too critical of yourself for not being able to be productive like other people in the way they are. Adapt what the experts say to suit your needs.

There are are no specific answers. But there are definitely better questions. Don’t just focus on questions that will validate your own assumptions.

Whatever you do, stay on the path of inquiry for better solutions for your personal experiences. Test methods that draw on your strengths and define success in a way that reflects your personal values.

Whatever new habits, systems, rules, principles and routines you adopt in your life, assess their value and how they can help you achieve your long-term goals in life and career.

You don’t want to apply any rule for the sake of it … you need to know that it can improve your life for the better. Once you choose your destination in life, you can identify the principles that can work for you in the short-term to achieve your long-term goal.

This article first appeared on Medium.