Principle #7 – Formative influences: friendships

Everyone will tell you that having deep and meaningful friendships is a good thing, but that is an oversimplification.

You first need to recognize that those with whom you spend significant time will change you. Friendships are formative in relation to both your character and actions. Be selective in who you allow to have this kind of influence on your life.

Find friends who are different from you in admirable ways, and they will enrich your life as you begin to see things through their perspective and their character begins to shape you. Seek to be a the kind of person who makes the lives of those around you better because of the richness you bring to their lives.

Principle #6 – The best things are the hard things

There is a way of living that seeks the path of least resistance (and it’s pretty popular). Life filled with ease and comfort and numbness. Stuck on the couch with the tv on waiting for the next notification from the phone; eyes glazed over and dissatisfied hearts. Believing what everyone else does to fit in and because it is easy. Living in isolation with only digital relationships and UPS deliveries. Life is meant to be so much more.

The best things are the hard things.

I don’t have a good memory (you probably already knew that), but the best things stick and they were hardest to do. Getting up too early to ski up a mountain in high winds and low temps, bikepacking through Colorado with 6 adults and 8 kids under 8 yrs old, elaborate holiday celebrations with too many good friends and too little space.

This principle is not just about making memories though, it’s also the path to true and full life. “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Mt 7:14

Principle #5 – The wealth-happiness correlation distortion

Would you be happier if you were wealthy? You may be able to guess the answer from the title, but let’s consider the following:

“As a person’s levels of wealth increase, their feelings of compassion and empathy go down and their feelings of entitlement, deservedness, and ideology of self-interest increases.”

“With increased self-focus and increased control (which are correlated to higher levels of wealth) you become less attuned to other people in your environment, less cooperative, less ethical, a whole slew of other things.”

“Lower income households give proportionately more of their incomes to charity than higher income households. So, proportionately speaking, the less well-off you are, the more charitable you are.”

– Paul Piff, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior, UC Berkeley

(parenthetical added to clarify context)


“It does have, consistently, in experiment after experiment, a positive affect on your happiness to spend on somebody else.”

“Spending money on yourself doesn’t do much for you, and spending on other people seems to have an impact on how happy you are.”

– Michael Norton, Ph.D., Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

So, what do we learn? If increasing wealth leads to less charitable giving, and spending money on others tends to increase happiness, then does increasing wealth actually decrease happiness? Mo money, mo problems…

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this is also vanity. – Ecclesiastes 5:10 (esv)

Principle #4 – Two truths and a lie

You know this game. But wait, let’s change it up a little. Same concept same rules, but let’s apply it to widely accepted wisdom and beliefs, things that have come to be known, not revealed.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Turns out, there is usually a lot of truth, but also some slight distortion. This distortion often completely changes the implications and trajectory of the belief.

You will learn a lot about humanity, others, and yourself. You learn about our longings and disappointments, about hope and needs, and how to love well by pointing towards what we were created to be.

Principle #3 – The paradox of choice

FOMO is real and pervasive and it has existed since we decided that it would be a good idea to choose for ourselves what is right and wrong, what is good and evil.

There are so many decisions to make in life. How do you decide what to do? How do you feel happy with your decision, not knowing how you would have felt if you had picked something else?

Freedom of choice isn’t really freedom when it comes with slavery to anxiety, comparison, and disappointment.

The first step towards the solution is agency not autonomy. “Real agency only arises in the context of submission to things you did not make yourself (Matthew Crawford).” Submission to an objective standard of truth; submission to the determination of right and wrong, good and evil, by the creator not the created.

Principle #2 – Love is not just a feeling

…if your definition of “love” stresses affectionate feelings more than unselfish actions, you will cripple your ability to maintain and grow strong love relationships. On the other hand, if you stress the action of love over the feeling, you enhance and establish the feeling. That is one of the secrets of living life… Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Principle #1 – Design your algorithm

Everyone has an internal algorithm which sorts and interprets everything in their lives. Stick with me here… Let’s first define our metaphor: the traditional understanding of an algorithm is (more or less) a set of instructions and processes which are applied to an input resulting in an output (and is mostly used when in reference to math or computer-y things).

This huge, complex, multifaceted internal algorithm is used to understand and interpret everything that a person may encounter in life, whether it be a problem faced, a new bit of information received, every interaction with others, or with nature, and even how they understand themselves. The resulting outputs of this internal algorithm are the things that are believed, the decisions made, and the actions taken (or not).

The concept of this human algorithm is kind of fuzzy, but work through it, and I think you’ll start to get the picture. The algorithm itself is made up of a number of principles: fundamental truths, rules of reasoning, and mental models. I don’t believe this is a novel concept; I have a good friend and mentor who always used to say “Get a grid!”, and I have heard it described as a ‘semantic tree,’ other metaphors that might be helpful. This human algorithm is the basis of forming one’s worldview and self-identity.

Whether aware of it or not, this algorithm is functioning (though not necessarily well) in everyone and greatly impacts the course of their lives. The most important thing to understand is that you must take an active role in designing your algorithm. Seriously. Everything depends on it.