Working Through “Principles”

Part of my new(ish) morning routine involves spending some time reading and studying a life-improvement or self-help book. I consider this category pretty broad and in the past it has included everything from “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, etc. Basically, anything that will motivate me or provide me with tools to get the most out of life falls into this category.

Unfortunately, I have a pretty strong history of just reading a book, being motivated for about 45 seconds, and then moving on to the next thing. I’m sure what I read is lingering in my neuropathways somewhere, but those lessons aren’t easily accessible or applicable to my day-to-day life. So, I’ve begun more actively studying instead of reading, which involves taking notes, underlining, and reviewing what I read and wrote at the end of the day.

Alas, that has not been enough… I need to more actively apply what I’ve been reading. I thought about waiting until I finished my current book, “Principles” by Ray Dalio, but decided to start working now instead of waiting until the end. In my experience, you should always get started before you feel ready.

To summarize the book, Dalio has recorded a bunch of principles of life and work that he views as being successful. In this book, he shares those principles and encourages the reader to develop their own. I’m not at the point of really reflecting on my life to develop my principles in a concrete way, but I am going to use the principles that worked for him in my own life, in particular I’m using Principle 2 (Use the 5-Step Process to Get What You Want Out of Life) and Principle 5 (Learn How to Make Decisions Effectively). These two sections, in particular, have very actionable advice.

First, the 5-Step Process:

  1. Have clear goals.
  2. Identify and don’t tolerate the problems that stand in the way of achieving those goals.
  3. Accurately diagnose the problems at their root causes.
  4. Design plans that will get you around them.
  5. Do what’s necessary to push these designs through to results.

Second, the important parts of Principle 5:

  1. Recognize that the biggest threat to good decision making is harmful emotions and decision making is a two-step process (learning and then deciding)
  2. Track your progress and goals through time to make sure they are both heading in the right direction and the trajectory is steep enough to reach your goals in a reasonable amount of time.
  3. Be an imperfectionist.
  4. Decisions and goals are set at different levels and it is vital to navigating these levels effectively.

Alright, with all those nice numbered lists in mind I’m going to share one of my goals. After each goal is the next level (from high to low) which basically takes a dream and turns it into day-to-day action items. Below is an example of one of my goals (Financial Security), but I am also working on this process for other (sometimes overlapping) goals which include: Live a Long, Healthy Life; Continue to Learn and Develop Skills; Have an Adventurous Life; Discover My Potential; Explore My Kinks and Other Interests; Community and Giving Back.

Goal 1: Financial Security – Enough money to retire
1.1) Pay off student loans by Jan. 1, 2021
1.1a) Earn $60* per workday beyond living expenses (or, earn approximately $130 per workday)
1.1a1) Work at least four hours in primary job for this purpose
1.1a2) Do not spend money on unnecessary things or short-term satisfaction.

1.2) Have >$400,000** in an investment account by time I turn 55
1.2a) Earn $1,850 per month beyond debt and living expenses and put that into appropriate investment accounts.
1.2a1) Work at least three hours in primary job for this purpose and place in Roth IRA or other investment accounts
1.2a2) When necessary, transfer money from high-risk (ie blockchain) accounts to a lower risk account (ie Roth IRA) to meet monthly contribution goals

Problem 1: In the past, I’ve spent too much money on unnecessary things like coffee, pizza, and beer.
Solution 1: Use tools and habit-building to prevent unnecessary spending.
Solution 1a: Allocate a certain amount of “fun” money for splurging and take that out in cash. Don’t use credit/debit card.
Solution 1b: Reread and “The Power of Habit” to develop a plan to break spending habits.
Solution 2: Diagnose why I am spending money on things that end up being poor long-term investments.
Solution 2a: I turn to some foods (particularly pizza and beer) when stressed out or feeling depressed.
Solution 2a1: Research finding a counselor or therapist to help address these issues.
Solution 2a2: Reread and “The Power of Habit” to develop a plan to break habits that respond to stress.
Solution 2a3: Increase time spent in healthy, stress-reducing activities each day (ie exercise, mindfulness meditation, etc.)

Problem 2: Job and life changes could reduce or eliminate my primary source of income.
Solution 1: Work to diversify income stream with entrepreneurial activities
Solution 1a: Finish podcast series and publish
Solution 1b: Write blog daily to build audience and monetize
Solution 1c: Write more books
Solution 1d: Build additional skill sets that can be done remotely and find secondary work (GIS, data visualization, coding, etc.)
Solution 1e: Produce sex communication card idea
Solution 1f: Research food truck idea
Solution 2: Place money into savings account to minimize harm from this possibility


Well, that about wraps up this example of how I am trying to be more consciously aware of my decision making to get the most out of life. I don’t know if anyone else got value out of this but I sure did. And, as always…

If you have a question or comment feel free to use the links below. There is literally nothing that is off-limits (as you will probably notice if you read through the on my AMA page). You can also email me if you want a personal response and I won’t post anything publicly if you want privacy.


Oh, and if you get some value out of this I’m always accepting tips and my book is available via the Amazon link below on Kindle and paperback.

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* This is all pretty rough math. My current debt is ~$55,000 (or ~$1,145.83 per month to pay off in four years) and my living expenses are about ($1,400 per month and includes rent, internet, cell phone, utilities, food and fun fund, and taxes)
** This is basically how much I need to maintain my current lifestyle just by living off of a modest 7% annual return on my account.

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