Jeffrey Paul: Ideas That Changed My Life

Jeffrey Paul

Ideas That Changed My Life


This is a living page; I will update it periodically.

Today I was inspired by this page. Many of these ideas are ridiculously obvious and often repeated, but people repeat a lot of nonsense things that are irrelevant or untrue, so here is a list of the ones that are actually true and good.

As a result, bear with me if some of these are already known to you, or if they seem trivial. Perhaps some may not, and perhaps you will be one of today’s lucky 10,000.

This is an attempt to produce a comprehensive list of ideas that significantly changed my life.


You can control yourself; you should not expect to control others. Many large events and societial shifts are beyond your control, as well. Don’t lose sleep stressing over things outside of your control; it’s a complete waste of time and energy. Instead, redouble your efforts to consciously focus on the things that are within your control, because that is the only place that your time, attention, and resources can actually improve your life.

Bias Toward Inaction

Most problems can be solved by waiting and doing nothing. Almost all problems will eventually go away if you wait long enough and do not engage.

The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP)

Do not initiate violence toward others. Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. Use violence only to defend yourself or others. If you are drawn toward initiating violence, consider for a moment that your emotions are deceiving you: even with all moral and ethical considerations aside, logically, from a purely utilitarian standpoint, violence of the type most people wish to employ in problem solving (i.e. less-than-lethal) is rarely the most effective solution to a problem.

Relatedly, anger is almost always unproductive. Even in situations where anger is justified and warranted, a cool, dispassionate approach to such situations results in better outcomes for all involved. (I personally am very lucky in that I almost never get actually angry at anyone for any reason.)

You Are More Powerful Than You Think

Each of us has a lot of unexercised power. Our choices, automatic though they may seem, shape our lives. You have nearly unimaginable power to shape your own life if you start considering your automatic choices and making some different ones. (For a perfect example: take a wire cutter and sever the power cable for your TV, and put your sofa out in the trash. Emulating The Simpsons title sequence is a recipe for a wasted life.)

Toss any aspect of your life that is taking up significant resources without paying significant dividends. (And always remember, your most important resource is your time and attention.)

Invest In Yourself

Buy the best tools money can buy. Get used to excellence in your tools, service providers, vendors, and partners - both in business and in life. If you plan to have an excellent and successful life, take the steps to build it with the resources you have today: don’t wait. This sort of attitude compounds over time, and having the right tools to serve you during your ascent will accelerate the process and make you happier, healther, and more productive throughout.

Do this both in the macro and the micro: buy a great chair, a great keyboard, a great mattress. Don’t settle for friends or partners in your personal life that don’t support and encourage you to achieve your goals. If all goes well, there simply won’t be time or energy to replace your tools and infrastructure and close associates later. Skate to where the puck is going. Don’t be afraid to part with the status quo, unless perhaps you are in a happy and well-adjusted family with billionaire parents, in which case, your status quo might already be fine. For the rest of us mortals out here in the struggle, be ready to part with the way things have been during the first half of your life, in preparation for the second. May things ever improve for you!

Anything Non-Essential Most People Do Is Probably A Waste Of Time

Social media, television series, video games, sports, drinking, travel to “tourist” destinations, performative consumption, etc: if you find yourself standing in a queue to do something with dozens or hundreds or thousands of other people in the same situation as you, the probability is high that you’ve made a mistake somewhere.

Sometimes the well-trod path is right where you want to be. But most of the time, you’re just meat for the machine. Get out and run.

Rarely do I get this feeling more intensely than queueing at theme parks.

Your Time Is Far More Valuable Than It Seems

It’s almost always worth it to buy things online and have them shipped than it is to go to the store, even if the store is close by, or even if the things online cost slightly more.

Stop going to retail stores, stop going to supermarkets. Order everything online and figure out ways to speed the process along. Things we do extremely often (e.g. going to the supermarket) are some of the biggest timesinks in our lives. It’s not so much the shopping or waiting in line, but at least in the US, it’s the time spent going to and from. A “quick trip” out to a retail store in the US can burn an hour+ in travel time for five minutes of purchasing. Give the money to Lord Bezos instead and be thankful that Amazon exists in your country. Your time is priceless.

Track Your Time

Know how you spend the hours of your day. Get the fuck off your phone. If you can’t, turn on the Screen Time tracker to know what apps you need to delete.

Sleep Is Essential

Sleep deprivation ruins your ability to think clearly, much like alcohol. It’s also deceptive, like alcohol, because a minor reduction in cognitive ability is not immediately obvious unless you are doing cognitively demanding tasks, and even then it may not be obvious to your impaired self.

Make sure you get as much sleep as your body needs. Destroy your alarm clock, and engineer your life around maintaining your cognitive functioning by getting enough sleep. Don’t let others pressure you into compromising this. 4-6 hours is not enough for most people. If you are regularly getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night, you are probably fucking yourself out of double-digit percentages of your long term potential. Stop it, you’re only hurting yourself.

It’s Just A Ride.

The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly colored and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question: “Is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say: “Hey, don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” … and we kill those people.

Humans Are Addicted To Narratives

Most human beings are absolutely addicted, in the normal compulsive, unthinking, reflexive way we mean when we we use the term “addiction”, to narrative structures around facts. It’s largely unexamined by most so afflicted. Far more than the implications of data, we as a species seem to care much more about the who and the why (which are largely irrelevant) than the what and the “what now?”.

Media producers know this. A story is nothing without the backstory, the motivations, thoughts, hopes, dreams, and fears of the characters that comprise it. This makes for good storytelling, but bad analysis.

Even if you can’t resist this temptation, at least be aware of this bias, and spend appropriate time and attention on the “what” and the “what now?”. They’re far more important than the who or the why.

About The Author

Jeffrey Paul is a hacker and security researcher living in Berlin and the founder of EEQJ, a consulting and research organization.