The Mihir Chronicles

On Values

July 10, 2021

[Last Revised: 08/01/2022]

Living a quality life with conviction is worth pursuing.

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected. — Steve Jobs

And only way to lead a quality life is to understand your belief system. Beliefs come before acting on your ability otherwise life can be a wild ride with no purpose.

Setting boundaries and constraints define who you are as an individual. Ever since I could remember as a kid, I valued loyalty and hard work. I would keep them close to heart because those things kept me grounded. Over time, my belief system expanded as I experienced life.

Don’t set rules, set values. Rules set limits that teach us to adopt a fixed view of the world. Values encourage us to internalize principles for ourselves. Instead of demanding attention, try talking to kids about why it’s important to listen. — Adam Grant

These are not hard rules. I realize holding beliefs loosely, so I am not cornering myself from thinking independently. Nonetheless, I try to live my life within certain boundaries to maintain focus.

The unexamined life is not worth living. — Socrates

Seek honesty in all matters: Without honesty none of the values below matter. It is easy to fool yourself subconsciously because your brain will allow you to play all sort of games and tricks. Once you give in to these tricks, breaking the honesty wall becomes a habit and lying becomes a norm. And yes, lying to yourself is not okay either! This is why honesty is the highest virtue you will carry. It takes years to build reputation and minutes to break trust. The byproduct of being honest is authenticity and originality because it leads you to a path that you want to take, not led by someone else. So always strive to seek for authenticity. If you are honest, you will own your individuality and the world will respect you for that. And if you ever screw up, actively seek out correction, accept ownership of your mistake and the world will forgive you. These are the traits of honest people.

Be kind to yourself and everyone: Kindness has a longer shelf life! Respect everything around you—yourself, people, work, time, money and relationships. Especially the “yourself” part. If you are kind to yourself (mind, body and soul), you can then learn to be kind to others and your environment around you. Do not try to overburden yourself with acquaintances because it is very difficult to manage 100 long-term friendships versus 10 deeper ones. This is just one example of respecting relationships. You can respect others by giving them 3 things—being reliable, giving them 100% attention and making them feel good about themselves. You never know what others are going through. Be compassionate, respectful and never forget to smile.

I believe that the energy you put out in the world, you get back. — Jay Z

Dance with the universe: You are solely responsible for your own life. So design it however you want. You are writing a play as you are in it and acting it. You have this universe in front of you that you ignore it or dance with it. And if you learn to dance with the universe, you will build your own self-esteem and confidence.

Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. — Viktor E. Frankl

We all can be masters at our craft, but you have to make a choice. What I mean by that is, there are inherent sacrifices that come along with that. Family time, hanging out with friends, being a great friend, being a great son, nephew, whatever the case may be. — Kobe Bryant

I am a big believer in that we design our lives. We are writing a play as we are in it and acting it. You have this universe in front of you that you can ignore it or dance with it. — Tina Roth Eisenberg

Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it. — Michael Jordan

Abundance mindset is better than scarcity mindset: Being a life-long learner is not enough. You need to teach and share with others. Teaching requires a mindset of abundance. It requires you to be an anti-hater and anti-envious. There are two sets of people—people who contribute and people who don't. People with abundant mindset believe there is plenty in the world for everyone and are always happy to see others succeed. People with scarcity mindset tend to hoard because they are worried someone is going to get ahead. The zero-sum mindset is pure evil in my opinion. It leads to envy and unhappiness. Just look in a country like Haiti, and you'll find a family living on $2/day is happy to share their meal with you as if they have enough to share. I've experienced this myself when I was there. They should have a scarcity mindset because of lack of resources, but it is the opposite, they welcome you with open hearts and willing to share with you the little they have. People with scarcity mindset are always unhappy because there is never enough. The joy lies in sharing with others.

Live deliberately every day: How many of us settle into habits and simply live the same year over and over again, waiting for some future event to occur before we start living? While you wait for that raise or career opportunity or ideal relationship, you tend to forget that life is happening now. Living deliberately is about awareness and purposeful action. If you take the necessary steps to craft each day deliberately, when the final day arrives, you'll be able to look back at a life brimming with joy, fulfillment and satisfaction. Today is all matters! Today, jettison the dead weight that’s holding you down.

Practice equanimity: There is no such thing as being always happy. If you are sad, accept sadness. Accept every emotion to the fullest and ride them out with equanimous (calm and composed) mind. When the mind experiences something pleasant or unpleasant, it simply understands it as things are, then there is no suffering. Experience joy or sadness without giving into craving. Suffering comes from craving. You will maintain peace of mind with the attitude of accepting “as is” when you are dealing with emotions. Both peak and bottom shall pass by. This is one way to show gratitude.

Positivity is a good behavior: Asking a question positively generates a better response. Example: “'Person: Can I smoke while I'm praying?' Priest: No. 'Person: Can I pray whilst I'm smoking?' Priest: Of course you can.” Positive thinking is an incredibly powerful tool. Proactive behavior spurs positivity and vice-versa. The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Positive people don't just have a good day; they make it a good day. People who think positively usually see endless possibilities. Success doesn't create optimism, but optimism leads to progress. Avoid negative energy at all cost. But do not drop your skepticism. A skeptic is not a pessimist. A skeptic just knows how to avoid stupidity while being an optimist.

Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise. — Kobe Bryant

Seek truth: Seek truth by always going to the source. Always ask why! Rationalize from the first-principles thinking. Ideas need to be mapped to objective reality to draw facts. The mindset of optimistic contrarian is when you think clearly from the ground up. Tactics provide the “what” and the “how.” But if you want results no matter how the landscape changes, you must also understand the “why.” By understanding the principles that shape your reality, your “why” will more accurately guide your thoughts and actions. Invert everything to refine your thinking. Instead of worrying about what it takes to be successful, ask yourself what will it take to be not successful. Be greedy when others are fearful and be fearful when others are greedy. Inversion allows you to remove blind-spots from your initial hypothesis. Believe in yourself but self-belief must be balanced with self-awareness. Truth-seeking is hard and often painful, but it is what separates self-belief from self-delusion. Learn to think well, and it'll pay huge reward!

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. — Robert Frost

The role of the artist is to be a mirror, to reflect back to our culture, to help us think critically and inspire action. — Hannah Chalew

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. — JFK

Live frugal, but not cheap: Learn to avoid lifestyle inflation and shifting up your goal post. Consume to meet the basic needs, waste nothing and be content with what you have. But don’t make mistake frugality with letting go of your youth and having fun. You don't have to cheap out on having fun. Both fun and frugality can co-exist. People who live far below their means enjoy freedom that people who are busy upgrading their lifestyles can’t fathom. Frugality allows you to stay rich. Getting rich and staying rich are different things that require different skills. Spending money to show people how much money you have is the fastest way to lose money. Debt will cripple you. Savings will give you wings to fly on. Freedom plus time are worth much more than nice cars and clothes.

Do everything with intense focus: Focus is a force multiplier both in work and life. Without intense focus everything else fails. And focusing on too many things is a recipe for failure. Cultivate trust and attention. Protect your attention like you protect your friends, family, and money. Singular focus allows you to choose direction over speed. If you don't know the direction, it doesn't matter how fast you are traveling. Inversely, if you’re locked on to your desired destination, all progress is positive, no matter how slow you’re going. You’ll reach your destination eventually with intense focus and ruthlessly prioritizing.

If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one. — Russian Proverb

Courage leads to action and learning from failure: Courage (risk-taking) is the highest virtue. Courage requires taking the first step. The journey of discovery is often tedious, filled with dead ends, and above all random, but persistence through randomness will always prevail. Grit comes from learning which allows you to get back up after you get knocked down. The issue with bravery is not many want to be pointed at for failure. But courage fundamentally requires accepting failure. You can learn more from your failure than success. Why? Because it is hard for most people to be humble. There are these defenses, overlooking their flaws and limitations. When it comes to human endeavor, success carries within itself with the seeds of failure and failure carries with the seeds of success. What do you learn from success? I can do it. I can do it again. It’s easy. I can do it in other fields. I can do it with more money. I can do it alone. It was me. It wasn’t a team. These are horrible lessons, success teaches terrible lessons because it plays our to your ego. You learn more from failures which allows you to learn humility. Enduring pain will help you take larger challenges and help you grow. Larger the ambition or creativity, larger the requirement of not asking for permission. No one will show up at your door and lift you up. You have to go out their and show the world what you are capable of. This requires courage!

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. — Anais Nin

Only while sleeping one makes no mistakes. Making mistakes is the privilege of the active—of those who can correct their mistakes and put them right. — Ingvar Kamprad

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat. — Theodore Roosevelt

Action produces information. — Brian Armstrong

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. — Suzy Kassem

If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. — Vincent Van Gogh

Never be anyone who tries to silence the art inside of you. — NA

Paint a lot, with a goal in mind. When you do a study, pick what you want to improve on. Value? Color? Rendering? Likeness? Every painting is a failure. Every painting session is a success. — NA

Be a lifelong student: To become a lifelong learner you have to prevent two biggest barriers—ego and blind-spot. Be radically open-minded. Your need to be right and having strong opinions will prevent you from learning less and falling short of your potential. Everyone perceives reality differently which puts blind-spot barriers. Using multidisciplinary approach and working with insightful and diverse people will narrow down your blind spot. Knowing too much is “the curse of knowledge” which is the inability to realize that other people with less experience than you have don’t see the world through the same lens you do. Hold thoughtful opinions loosely! Don't be married to an idea or be part of a cult. Update your knowledge as you progress in life. Always carry humility with you while being a life-long student.

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. Language is a skin of the culture. Perspective comes from zooming out. Insight comes from zooming in. They’re both enhanced by zoning out for a while. — Anonymous

I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them. — Baruch Spinoza

You wasted $150,000 on an education you could've got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library. — Good Will Hunting

The best never stop improving! Average players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached, and great players want to be told the truth. — Michael Jordan

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. Language is a skin of the culture. Perspective comes from zooming out. Insight comes from zooming in. They’re both enhanced by zoning out for a while. — NA

To my mind there are no advantages and many disadvantages in lectures compared with reading. — Darwin

I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them. — Baruch Spinoza

You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library. — Good Will Hunting

To get that kind of information, to me it’s like climbing Mount Everest and speaking to a Buddha at the top of the mountain. You want that information? You’ve got to climb that mountain yourself. — Kobe Bryant

Imitation precedes creation. — Stephen King

Take incremental steps to think long-term: Incremental steps are better than a giant leap. Compound interest is the most underrated law. Extreme patience with extreme focus with extreme decisiveness with a long-term view will do magic and wonders. It’s amazing how much of a competitive advantage can be found by simply having the disposition to wait longer than everyone else. Be the tortoise, not the hare! Take small steps in a sequence but with urgency. Smooth sailing is fast selling. Play long-term game with long-term people. Momentum in everyday life is highly underrated. It's all about effort.

The best kind of success is continuous, every day, not occasional. Learn, build, share, repeat — Patrick O'Shaughnessy

The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. — Michael Porter

Growth without goals is the ultimate goal: Expectations lead to disappointments. Don't expect. Trust the process. The means and the end are the same. When the process itself is the goal, magical things happen. Growth without goals is the ultimate goal. Have a life don’t have a career! Goals have an endpoint. System and process don’t. Growth or progress which is structured and habitual, but adaptable and not pre-determined through the setting of rigid long-term goals. Scores and achievements are traps! Let the process take care of itself.

The mindset isn’t about seeking a result—it’s more about the process of getting to that result. It’s about the journey and the approach. It’s a way of life. I do think that it’s important, in all endeavors, to have that mentality. — Kobe Bryant

Work of an artist is never completed only abandoned. — NA

Repetition leads to excellence: Consistency is the playground for perfection. Be so good that they can't ignore you. Key to becoming so good is to do boring tasks over and over again until you perfect it. Doing new and cool things is desirable but doing repetitive task is not. It will take many tries till you perfect your art. Use space repetition technique and focused/diffused mode. Effort counts not passion; effort counts not talent. Deliberate practice is a key to repetition. Structured but flexible repetition is the best productivity tool. It doesn't matter what you are trying to become better at, if you only do the work when it’s convenient or exciting, then you’ll never be consistent enough to achieve remarkable results. The ability to show up every day, stick to the schedule, and do the work, especially when you don't feel like it, is so valuable that it is literally all you need to become better 99% of the time.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. — Aristotle

A genius is born in the midst of boring and repetitive tasks. — Anonymous

Discipline will sooner or later defeat intelligence. — Japanese Proverb

Hard problems beget hard work: Skills will only take you far but work ethic will define your character. Work on hard problems. When you work on hard problems, you are alive and relieved after solving them. You can get to about 90th percentile in your field by working either smart or hard, which is still a great accomplishment. But getting to the 99th percentile requires both—you will be competing with other very talented people who will have great ideas and are willing to work a lot. You don't need to sacrifice life and hobbies while working hard. This is easy for people who see work playful. Momentum compounds, and hard work begets progress.

Hard work enables one to excel over those who coast through life. — John Boyd

A lot of people say they want to be great, but they’re not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve greatness. They have other concerns, whether important or not, and they spread themselves out. That’s totally fine. After all, greatness is not for everybody. — Kobe Bryant

Seek multidisciplinary approach over specialization: Complexity is the name of the game. We simplify because we are addicted to narratives, but the complexity goes on. This is why having a generalist mindset can be a huge advantage. Ideas in isolation doesn't have much value, but when you connect constellation of ideas, it takes a meaningful form. Knowing the key drivers and major ideas in variety of fields is a huge source of leverage. It is difficult to study broadly and deeply, but the two aren't mutually exclusive. You have to be radically open-minded. It is easy to pay homage to Charlie Munger’s latticework of mental models, but when you live it, you see why he is right.

I think it is undeniably true that the human brain must work in models. The trick is to have your brain work better than the other person’s brain because it understands the most fundamental models–ones that will do most work per unit. — Charlie Munger

Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful. — George Box