My 10 Rules for Living a Balanced and Productive Life

Your human body is shaped by Mother Nature to move. Your ancestors moved all the time, about 13 miles a day, each and every day.

When you don't move, your muscles get tight and shorten or elongate and as a result your body gets tangled through disuse. This is why chronic back pain is so ubiquitous—we sit too much and we don't move enough. It's also a contributing factor in the obesity problem we face.

It's estimated that the average person in the West walks less than a mile each day.

This principle applies to all humans, even regular gym goers or otherwise "active" individuals.

You can't correct lack of movement simply by going to the gym after working your 8-hour desk job. It doesn't work that way.

You must move frequently throughout your day, the more the better. Stand more and adjust positions. Do anything that gets you moving as often as possible.

Implement a moving practice and practice good movement hygiene:

  1. Every hour or so, take a 3-5 minute break and walk. (This simple technique can have a major positive impact.)
  2. If you must sit, get up often and switch to standing as often as possible throughout your day.
  3. Perform corrective stretches to open up hips, release psoas, etc.

2. Think often

Training your mind is just as important as training your body.

This is is often overlooked and undervalued for its role in living a successful life.

Whether you want to make a billion dollars or you want to attract a high-quality mate, your brain is the most important foundational piece of the pursuit. And like any other muscle, if you don't use it, you lose it.

Furthermore, what you think, both consciously and unconsciously, is the determining factor in what manifests in your life.

There is literally no other thing that's more important in life. I can't stress this enough. After all, your reality is whatever your brain tells you it is.

And this is why you want to have as much control over your mental world as you can.

If you want to be happy, you must work on your inner world rather than trying so hard to get more from the outer world. Yet that's exactly what most people try to do: they try to find inner happiness by pursuing outer success. That's like trying to pull the horse with the cart. It simply doesn't work.

If you want to be an olympic gold medalist, your brain is still the most important piece of the puzzle. After all, success at the highest levels of human physical achievement typically comes down to winning in the mental realm. And it's your mental strength that keeps you putting in the thousands of training hours.

Here are some ways to keep your inner world as strong as your outer:

  1. Read all the time, especially books.
  2. Find a hobby or game that you enjoy. This can also serve as a form of mindful meditation in which you forget about your worldly problems. It can be quite therapeutic.
  3. Create something: a video, a blog post, a book, art. The creativity muscle is one that requires constant use. No one is born a great artists, speaker, entrepreneur, they are forged through thousands of hours of practice.

3. Listen

Listen more... and... be interested.

Being a great listener is your single most valuable skill when dealing with other people.

No matter what you want to accomplish, and whether you are dealing with an advisory or an ally, listening is your multitool for getting what you want in your relationships.

To win with people, make them feel like you are listening, which signals you are interested, which makes them feel you understand, which makes them happy, satisfied, and otherwise content.

While also giving your rapt attention when listening, you should ask strategic questions to increase the trust and comfort your counterparts have with you. This is such a powerful tool, you'll be amazed at the results when you start consciously using it in your work and personal life.

Becoming a better listener could save your marriage, your friendship, your job. The examples in life where this is applicable are countless.

Now, I'm not simply suggesting you sit there nodding your head for an hour while the other person rambles on. That is not productive for either of you. Also, don't make the mistake of only focusing on the other person to the point where you are left out and unheard. It goes both ways.

Take control. Use active listening, strategic questions, and short and to-the-point statements. Other people will invariably talk more than you, so expect that, but make sure you also speak and are heard.

Since most people love to talk, you may need to interject at times, sometimes forcibly if you are dealing with a jabberer, but that's ok as long as it shows you are listening and looking to clarify or add to the conversation. (Use this technique sparingly.)

First, make it your goal to understand and connect. As comfort grows, you can go deeper and aim to pull out more vulnerability from those you talk to.

Finally, know that you will sometimes have difficult, sometimes heated, conversations. Those can also sometimes be the most productive, entertaining, and enlightening. Just avoid making it personal or becoming defensive, both of which can destroy trust and ruin your progress.

My advice in instances such as this is to make sure you focus on the topics and not result to name-calling or straw man arguments. Clarifying questions are useful for diffusing emotions.

Listening, and being interested in other people, are skills learned through practice.

You can read about them all day long, but until you get out there and start asking questions and being interested, you will not understand its power nor will you use it effectively.

4. Deliberately Practice

There's a concept known as the 10,000-hour rule that's been popularized by Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point. It can be summarized as this: the top musicians spent around 10,000 hours on their craft to get to the top of their game.

Another point brought up in the book, and the one I think is more important is the musician's focus on deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is working on a specific skill or technique in a dogged way as a means of improving that specific skill or technique. Examples include working on a difficult pattern over and over until you get it down to near perfection or practicing your finger work over and over until your dexterity and accuracy reach a new level.

Here's another example:

There's a famous story involving Joe DiMaggio—one of the greatest hitters in baseball history—and a journalist who asks DiMaggio what it's like being a "natural hitter."

DiMaggio, instead of replying, nods for the journalist to follow him downstairs.

As they descend to a shadow-filled basement, DiMaggio picks up a bat and starts a series of practice swings.

"Fastball," he calls out and swings.

"Slider, inside" and he swings, adjusting his swing for the particular imaged throw.

He does this for a couple minutes, illustrating what is obviously a regular routine.

After the display, DiMaggio puts his bat down and grabs a piece of chalk to make a tally mark on a sliver of wall showing in the light.

Then he pulls one of those badass moves you typically only see in the movie: he turns on the lights to reveal every wall in the basement covered in thousands of tally marks.

Legend has it that DiMaggio then said to the journalist, "Don't you ever tell me that I'm a natural hitter again."

Boom... Headshot.

They should make an entire movie around this single scene.

The lesson is simple: practice with focus and determination at the thing you want to improve or accomplish. That is how you succeed in life.

And a secondary lesson: don't go out there blaming others for their success or assuming they had it easy. That is the loser mindset.

Winners are inspired by successful people; the more successful, the more inspired and the more curious they are to know where those tally marks are.

Losers make excuses for themselves by claiming other's got lucky.

5. Cultivate an Abundance Mindset

This following represents a foundational way of viewing the world. You basically have two choices here: abundance vs scarcity.

You could say an abundance mindset is positive while a scarcity mindset is negative, but there's a bit more to it than that.

An abundance mindset is optimism. It is a focus on the positive aspects with the decision that the goodwill wins out over the bad. It is not ignorance to the bad, it is instead a choice to focus on what's good while using that to direct decisions.

With an abundant mindset, you don't view relationships, business, or life as a zero-sum game in which you winning means someone else is losing.

Instead, you can have many great relationships, none of which have to take from the other.

You can serve the same customers as your competition, or even better, you realize the market is big enough for you and your competition to prosper.

When you focus on abundance, you naturally weed out scarcity. You don't view the world in black and white but instead in beautiful colors. You see opportunity instead of opposition.

You view obstacles as the way instead of something to be avoided.

You are more accepting and open.

You don't view life as winning or losing, just doing great.

Don't be scarcity minded... be grateful, abundant and optimistic minded. You'll do better in every way.

6. Compete

Hobbies are great, but since many are an alone activity, you would do well to find one that includes people, particularly people you can compete against.

Find a sport or game you enjoy that includes other people. Find something to compete at.

Compete with yourself and with others—they go hand-in-hand.

Examples include: Magic The Gathering, Board games, Chess, sports, card games, poker, etc.

I'm sure there's plenty of research pointing to the benefits of (healthy) competition for the human mind (and body).

But who cares what scientists say.

It's not hard to see the benefits of competing with your friends; camaraderie, personal mastery, mental resilience, exercise, and fun.

Personally, I have a sport I love that provides me all the benefits mentioned above—racquetball. This is a game I will play the rest of my life. It is as much a form of personal competition as it is a competition with others.

I also enjoy playing Age of Empires 2, a game I grew up on.

I used to play hours and hours as a teenager. It's the best video game ever created. You can improve your game by analyzing recorded games you played in the past. Most games are played on a team, so teamwork is integral. There’s something unique about being forced to the moment, to respond and be fully absorbed.

It really is a form of meditation.

I am completely in the moment when I play. It forces me to inwardly direct my angst when I lose so I can find ways to get better.

One of the most rewarded aspects of life is self-mastery. If you've never felt the feeling of getting better at something, you are truly missing out. Hobbies can help you with that.

Find something that will challenge you this way. Then make time for it every week.

7. Play

This is one we lose with age. We don't play enough as we get older. (Number 6 can help with this.)

Joking with friends, wrestling with your mate, playing hide and seek with your kids (or neighborhood kids if you don't have any), and so on.

There are many ways to lighten your mood and engage your body and mind in play, and the health benefits are myriad.

Play is an integral aspect of a child's growth and development. And it's equally as important for adults.

8. Read books

Not articles or blogs. Books are long-form content that is edited and fully vetted before you get it.

Articles and news stories, on the other hand, are lacking depth and haven’t been through the rigorous proofing that long-form content has been through. As a result, they are of lower quality.

Books can take you to different times and places. It helps you form neural connections and think differently. There is no better way to be a unique individual, with unique ideas, than reading books.

They are the reason I’ve done what I’ve done and will continue to be the reason why I accomplish what I accomplish moving into the future.

Tools: Audible (How I read 100 books a year), Kindle and Amazon Prime