The 11 Maxims You Should Live By

[Last updated 27th August 2019]

maxims What is a maxim, you ask?

Simple. It’s a rule for you to live by.

Why do you need maxims?

Because, without them you live an undisciplined life, no consistency….A life not governed by any maxim will lead…nowhere. No direction.

Below are 11 maxims that have helped me a lot–and hopefully will also help you towards a better life.

#1 Absorb what is useful; Disregard that which is useless

The first time I ever encountered a maxim was when I started practicing Jeet Kune Do at age 14. At the end of each practice we would recite a bunch of maxims.

Out of all the maxims I heard, this was the only one that I truly “absorbed”. Thankfully!

Jeet Kune Do is founded on this very maxim. JDK is the father of modern MMA. Bruce Lee created it by taking all the best stuff from all other martial arts, mixing it together, and creating his own style. The traditional martial artists got angry at him for doing it. But no one remembers any of their names, while Bruce Lee will forever be known as a famous pioneer.

This maxim has impacted my life in a big way ever since.

I am a “thief” — and I’m proud of it. That’s what this article is about!

I steal ideas from the most brilliant minds. You should do the same.

#2 Your brain is constantly being rewired

And it’s all on you to make sure that it’s being wired optimally. Any time you’re having a negative thought, that’s another repetition given to a corresponding neural pathway. This makes it stronger, and more likely for you to think negatively again.

Is that really what you want?

It can be hard to stop thinking negative things (because you get trapped in an emotional feedback loop) but the faster you can stop, the better.

By reminding myself of this maxim, I have eliminated most of my negative thinking. I’m not the most positive person, but I am never negative. Nothing good comes of it.

#3 Time is short, you will die soon

At first it’s a scary thing to think about. Then it becomes very liberating.

If you knew your life was going to end 3 months from now, you would probably do things differently. For starters, you would spend more time around your best (True) friends, and cut off those who only drain you.

You might quit your job, quit university. You might spend more time alone, getting in touch with your emotions. You might read more books (out of curiosity for life–what’s it all about?)

#4 Your life is the sum of the narratives you tell yourselfmaxims2

All personal experience is subjective. What is “real”? You can hang out with a friend and look at a rock and both of you can agree that you’re seeing a rock. But that’s not real reality. That’s consensus reality.

The point is: Your life is what you think it is. You can choose to interpret things in an empowering way, or in a negative way (leaving you tired and sad). Why not choose the positive way?

Life is short, anyway.

You have a certain amount of control (no one knows how much) over the subjective experience known as your life. But it increases with practice–by experience, metacognition and meditation.

Just how much control do you have? 1

All is but opinion.

Your internal dialogue, and how you interpret the things that happen to you, is mostly up to you. You can mentally manipulate it in your favor. Much of Stoicism is devoted to this pursuit.

You can either listen to a disempowering narrative, or you choose to craft a narrative where you are the champion–and build a legacy.

But what if others disagree?

Well, who are others to decide what is real or not?

What authority do they have behind their claims?

No one has a claim on your reality, except you.

So, I say: Choose an epic narrative.

Choose to have an inner monologue that is positive and pumps you up.

#5 This too shall pass

Heraclitus, the philosopher, said that change is the only constant.

Remind yourself of this often. Especially when you’re suffering, complaining, or struggling!

It will pass–and good will come of it.

Suffering = strength.

It’s a good thing to suffer early in life, because it makes you stronger later in life. When you see others being weak, it’s only thanks to your having already been weak in that area earlier than them.

#6 Life is about making choices

Time is the most valuable resource. At second place comes willpower.

Napoleon Bonaparte said:

Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious than being able to decide…

Willpower, which comes from the prefrontal cortex, is the “finite” resource used to concentrate and make decisions. On an average day, you have no more than 3-4 hours of raw concentration in you. So make the best of it.

Prioritize better.

As Napoleon asserted, most people don’t like making decisions. So they waste their best time each day on “deciding” which TV show to watch. But they don’t use it to build a business, build a body, or educate themselves.

#7 There is a “law” of compounding: Follow it

Just as there is power in compound interest, there is also power in compound experience. It’s not an exact law though, because there’s a difference between compound interest (money) and that of compound experience.

The difference is that it takes forever for compound interest to start working for the normal person…

Let’s say you save $500 on a monthly basis — which you absolutely can if you’re frugal — and invest it in the stock market or a savings account….

Well, then your investment appreciates by 5% on a yearly basis. If you keep this up for 20 years you’ll end up with $207.729.

[Note: You can check this out yourself to make it more concrete…]

And while that sounds like a nice chunk of cash, it’s not really as great as it sounds…. Because you’re probably not taking into account that:

1. You’re locking in this capital for 20 damn years (!), and in doing so probably missing a bunch of better investment opportunities.

2. In 20 years from now, your hefty sum of $207.729 won’t have the same purchasing power as it does today (inflation). Given how much money is being printed nowadays, it’s hard to know how much that amount of money will be worth in the future.

3. The stock market, or your savings account, could potentially crash at any time. Like when Lehman Brothers collapsed and initiated the financial crisis of 2008. If that happens, you’ll be set back a long way, maybe minus 30-100%. If that happens, all your previously compounded interest goes out the window.

So, compound interest is awesome in theory. But not always awesome in practice. At least not if you’re an average Joe starting from scratch hoping to get rich from it in 20+ years.

–Experience, however, is safer. It is fully subject to the “law” of compounding:

1. You will learn more, and quicker, if you know a ton of stuff. This is because learning happens mainly by creating associations between memories. If you already have a ton of associations that relate to something, you’ll memorize it almost instantly. This is why you should study HISTORY.

2. If you already have a lot of experience in an area, your brain is primed to see patterns that others cannot see. If you’ve got a lot of experience with business you can see potential business opportunities more easily. If you’re good at picking up girls you can see opportunities for doing that where others don’t. If you’re good at fighting you can easily find openings to strike your opponent. Whatever. It all comes down to PRACTICE–so practice that as soon as you can to get a head-start!

3. The more you know, the more often you get “inspired”. Einstein said:

A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way, but intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.

The more things you learn, the more easily you’ll get flashes of insight. This is a direct result of your brain finding a “fit” between a bunch of already existing associations. Your subconscious is always at work, trying to fit together different pieces of information to see how they mesh with each other.

Given this “law” of compound experience, it becomes important to learn as many things as possible early in life.

#8 A consistent process produces success

The process is the cause behind the effect. All positive results stem from a great process over a long period of time. Like your daily routine, for example.

Michael Jordan didn’t become a legendary basket ball player overnight. He did it by putting in thousands of hours practicing day in an day out, while fine-tuning his framework for learning.

The same can be said of just about any successful person. They’re successful because they’ve created a daily routine that fit their desired outcome, and stuck to it consistently while eliminating what doesn’t work, and doing more of what works well, which comes with experience.

My physique was at best slightly above average 3 years ago. Now it’s elite. How did that happen?

Ain’t nothing to it but hardcore consistency in diet, sleep, and an efficient pre-workout ritual. Now I don’t even think about it. I just take time to do it–because I found what works for me and continue doing it.

#9 Do today what others won’t do so that tomorrow you can do what others cannot.

Plain and simple: put in the work now and sacrifice for a couple of years, and reap the rewards of it later. While others were sleeping, you were hustling, you entered the Gauntlet and got through it. Now who’s lucky?

Not you. You made the conscious decision to live like no one else would. You took the path least traveled. You stuck to the process you thought out.

The hard life is tough…But only for a while. Then you adapt and it’s normal.

–Then it pays off big.

The easy life isn’t challenging at all, and that’s why it pays off in direct proportion–not at all.

#10 Rise to the work of man

This is an abbreviation of a quote from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.  Use it to remind yourself that you’re not supposed to snooze, sleep in, or be lazy. Nature has fixed a certain amount of sleep for you, don’t overextend it.

Bees, horses, and insects fulfill their purpose in nature without effort. Humans are confused: What is my purpose?

I don’t know… But I do know the following: your purpose is not found or fulfilled lying in your bed, sleeping away the day.

#11…

I don’t have an eleventh maxim.

But check out the comment section below for MANY more maxims from other smart people.


  1. Not as much as LOA-true believers believe, but (according to neuroscience) still a lot.

Comments

  1. Great article Ludvig, my favorite maxim is about how short life is. It’s such a valuable point to consider daily to make the most out of life, there is a reason Seneca wrote a book about it ;).

  2. sophie Williams says

    Hi Ludvig, I love your posts!! Awesome work, kep up :)
    Thank you
    Sophia

  3. Cheryle Janasiak says

    “The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, remain neutral.”

    MLK Jr.

  4. I’m agree with you. :)
    i’m always proud of with my life

  5. Ludvig! I’m wondering if you had some systems and methods for incorporating these heuristics / rules in your daily decision taking..TY

  6. About #7.2:
    “2. In 20 years from now, your hefty sum of $207,729.47 won’t have the same purchasing power as it does today. Given how much money is being printed nowadays, it’s hard to know how much that amount of money will be worth in the future.”

    How about buying bitcoins? (using them to invest). Those can’t be printed.

  7. I really like these Maxims Ludvig, I am learning a ton more about personal development with your posts. Thanks!

    BTW, I like the maxim of compound experience. It makes a ton of logical sense. I mean I read the Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers and that 10,000 hours of mastery might be linked to this Compounding Maxim.

    Cheers.

  8. Thanks for sharing these, Ludvig!

    Number five is my favorite, but sometimes, especially when the going is tough, I find it difficult to realize that my situation won’t be the same forever. Somehow my mind tries to convince me that my circumstances will stay the same and that makes me lose hope and dislike my life.

    I really have to work on this one.

    Great read!

    Cheers,
    Nelu

  9. Hell yes I love #2 the most.

    Your brain is your creation through neuroplasticity. It’s your baby. You must foster it and nurture it in the exact way you want it to grow, and beautifully enough, YOU pick the direction.

    This is so crucial that many people overlook this becoming whipped by the wind and not seeing that we have SO much more control over our environments than we think. It’s ridiculous. So just focus on what you can control and deal with the rest!

    – Evan

  10. Great post as always Ludvig…:)

    Each of us should print our own maxims to live and post it in our wall

  11. “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength” Marcus Aurelius
    That one is huge for me.

    “The true entrepeneur is a doer, not a dreamer” Nolan Bushnell
    When ever i feel lazy, that’s my mantra.

    “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” – Left-Handed Path Proverb
    Some think it’s from Assasin’s creed, but it’s actually an old spiritual saying.

    Nothing is true is to question morality and limiting beliefs to create your own view of the world. Everything is permitted is to not limit your actions whil you make yourself responsible od the consequences.

    Awesome Article men, keep it up.

  12. These are indeed great maxims. The whole post reminds me of something I read Socrates once said – ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’ I think we can often fail to take to heart our responsibility to take the steering wheel and make use of the time we’ve been given. That’s why #4 and #10 really resonated with me. They’re about asking the big questions. What’s the meaning of the life I’m living? Am I really engaging with my purpose? Have I taken the time to understand what it is? Like that famous Mark Twain quote says: ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.’

  13. I particularly needed to read #4. It can be so easy to feel that our lives are being judged on some larger, ostensibly objective, scale. In reality, the only opinion of us that matters is our own.

    This revelation offers tremendous freedom, if it can be truly taken to heart. Thanks Ludvig!

  14. I have a maxim that I stuck over my monitor, which I see every day. It’s a bit long, but I really like it, here it goes:

    Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. Don’t strive to make our presence noticed, just make your absence felt.

    Short but sweet :)

    Great article Ludvig!!

  15. Patrick Kyle says

    Great article. Also some good input from the commenters. One maxim the has greatly helped me is: I am 100% responsible for my life and everything in it.

    Its not original with me. I read it somewhere years ago and it stuck. Even things that happen to me that are out of my control, I am 100% responsible for my attitudes and actions in response to them. This has changed the entire direction of my life and improved the quality of it.

    Thanks for the good work you are doing here, and I am enjoying your e-book, ‘Breaking out of Homeostasis.’

    • Hey Patrick.

      Great maxim. Thanks for sharing.

      Also, glad you enjoy BOOH. :)

    • “Even things that happen to me that are out of my control, I am 100% responsible for my attitudes and actions in response to them.”

      Similar to Viktor Frankyl, and one of my favorites. Never accept disempowerment.

  16. Amor Fati!

  17. Dan Erickson says

    Here’s one I made up shortly after I started blogging: “Slowly grow the circle and simply share.”

    Another I made is “Food and gas, always cash.”

    And, “Kill the bills and fill the jugs.”

    I especially like #3 on your list. It can be a real motivator to leave something great behind when you go.

Speak Your Mind

*

StartGainingMomentum

StartGainingMomentum

10 Guides and ResourcesThe Best of My Free Material Available for Download

Check out the Mini-Library.

It includes guides and resources on the following topics:

  • The 60-Second Mind
  • Transform Your Life
  • Energy, Focus and Productivity
  • One Page Guide to Commonplacing
  • Fitness and Health Fundamentals
  • How to Get Ahead In Your Career
  • Learning Machine
  • 61+ Books Summarized
  • Overcoming Information Overload
  • 100 Lessons from Billionaires, Entrepreneurs, Philosophers
Go to Mini-Library