20 truths about life that nobody wants to believe

I was thinking the other day about how there are all these key pieces of advice that someone influential in our lives (mom, dad, grandma, Cthulu) tells us are true, but that we don’t like the answers to. So to deal with the issue, we decide we’re too awesome to pay attention and insist on failing for ourselves.

Anyway, I thought I’d make a list of the truths I’ve discovered in case anyone out there is wondering about them. NOW: I’ve tested these things and can vouch for their truth, but feel free to ignore me if you’d like the experience of screwing up for yourself. It’s cool.

Here we go:

1. If you want to lose weight or see your abs, you need to eat less.
Nobody wants to eat less or eat better, so if they want to lose weight, they keep eating and simply exercise more. I know I did. I have been aggressively weight training for 20 years and have experimented with just about every way of training out there. I have done powerlifting. I have done strongman workouts. I have done Crossfit. I once did four major endurance events in two months, and I trained 20+ hours a week during that time. But despite all of that, I only finally got a six pack when I got my diet under control and started tracking what I ate religiously using an app. There’s an expression that says “you can’t out-train a bad diet” and one that says “abs are made in the kitchen.” Both are 100% true.

2. The best moneymaking and success strategy is to be awesome.
It’s amazing how many people fret about perfecting their marketing strategy when what they have to offer is total shit. Sure, marketing and SEO and positioning matter… but only once you are producing awesome stuff. No matter how many times we talk about marketing funnels or KDP Select promotion strategy on the podcast, the bottom-line advice always boils down to, “Keep writing awesome books that people love.” That philosophy applies to everything.

3. Most people are lazy.
People say they want to make some kind of a change. They get good, solid advice. Then they do nothing. NOTHING. In most cases, failure is not the result of outside influences. In most cases, failure is due to a simple lack of effort. It’s an ugly truth, but it’s the truth, all right: most people don’t want what they claim to want badly enough to actually put in the work required to get it.

4. Guilt and regret won’t make your problems go away.
There’s no point in dwelling on bad things that happened or that you did in the past. Most people feel that it’s their duty to dwell on guilt, as if they’ll somehow be a horrible person if they refuse to keep feeling guilty. It’s not true. What happened happened. Move on.

5. Bitching won’t make your problems go away.
This one is hilarious to see in action. Why does your father always complain about his crappy car? Why does your neighbor complain about the government and taxes? Bitching and complaining does nothing. Action does something, but bitching is not action. Bitching is bitching. Yet people do it fervently, as if they think that bitching enough will, by itself, solve the problem.

6. Doggedly pursuing a stupid idea won’t turn it into it a smart idea.
I once tried to get a Ph.D in genetics. I hated my studies within a month, but I told myself that if I just stuck with it, I’d eventually love it and life would be grand. It didn’t, and eventually I wised up and quit. One of the best aphorisms I’ve ever heard is from the movie Christine, when Darnell says, “You can’t polish a turd.” So stop trying. That turd is a turd, and no matter how long you polish it, it won’t turn into a shiny new Plymouth Fury. And sure, Arnie got lucky in the movie, but his car turned out to be evil. There’s a lesson there.

7. You should always be yourself.
Ask any gay person if they’d rather go back into the closet and go back to pretending to be someone they’re not. I’ll bet you don’t get a yes. It’s always better to be open about who you are, what you do, what you like, and what you want out of life. I don’t mean to open a can of worms on this one, but sex is a huge issue here. We had a whole episode of our podcast about this if you’re interested. Just be warned that it is EXTREMELY NSFW AND NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN. (You’ve been warned; click here to listen.)

8. Worrying is useless.
Worry is like bitching. It changes nothing, but we feel like we’ve got to do it because if we don’t worry about something enough, it seems like we’re being flippant. But try something for me: the next time you’re worried about something, ask yourself how much the problem will improve if you worry really, really hard. That’ll fix things, right?

9. Most successes happen in small steps and take a long time.
This is the cornerstone message behind my Everyday Legendary community, which is filled with people who actually understand that most things worth doing take time. Almost nothing happens in huge, gestalt leaps. Want to become a champion ballerina or start a successful company? Get a little better every day, then repeat.

10. You shouldn’t buy what you can’t afford.
Want that TV? Wait until you have enough cash to pay for it. Want to take the vacation but need to borrow from your credit card (and then not pay it off in full) to do it? You’d better wait. I’ve violated this plenty. Sometimes, for necessities, it feels essential. I almost always regret it.

11. Nobody is rooting for you to fail.
The world isn’t out to get you. There’s no point in pretending that it is. People have their noses so far in their own business that they’re not paying attention to you and your potential failure. You simply don’t matter to them enough to root against. That means you’re free.

12. Nobody cares if you succeed.
This is the corollary to #11 above. Think Aunt Margaret will push your new book to all of her friends? Think that famous person who could really help you will hop on board with your fantastic idea? Nope. They don’t give a shit. Not really. They have their own issues. Your successes are up to you.

13. Nobody cares about your complaints.
I was once part of a group that really, really pissed me off. I made sure I let them know why I was leaving, and how unwelcome I felt. I didn’t think that they’d change and/or beg me to stay, but I thought they’d at least express concern or regret, or at least register some emotion. They didn’t. Same when my wife stormed out of a job under shitty conditions. Same with a bank that had hideous service. And so on. They don’t care, so make your feelings known… but then don’t expect a reaction, and certainly don’t expect change or for them to make it right.

14. There is very little that you truly need.
Food. Water. Air. Shelter. Those are the things you need. You do not need a house. A cardboard box covering your head will do just fine. It’s not ideal, but it will work. Most people inflate their personal cost of living by turning things that they merely want into things they feel they need. It’s okay to want things. It’s good to want things. But stop adding stress to your life by equating your gym membership or your car to your literal survival. If you lose most things, you and your family will continue to live and will still probably manage to be happy from time to time.

15. Everyone lives life according to their own rules, not yours.
Someone says something to you and you’re offended. You think they’re being a jerk, because you have a personal rule that says, “If you say X to someone, it’s because you want to insult them.” But that other person doesn’t necessarily have the same rules as you have. They’re responding according to their own rules, and in all probability, their rules say that they are responding appropriately. They may even think that you are the bad guy. So who’s right? Neither; you simply have different rules. The sooner you realize that everyone is trying to do the best they can in life with what they have (rather than going out of their way to be mean to you), the better.

16. Clueless people don’t know they’re clueless, and never will.
If you’re aghast that someone is a total dipshit and feel the need to show them the dipshit nature of their ways, don’t bother to try. It may be super-obvious to you that you really shouldn’t rest your testicles on the countertop while using the sink like some old men used to do at my gym, but they’re never going to have that epiphany. They may change to please you, but they will never think, “Wow, I was really dumb!”

17. It seldom makes sense to try to convince people you’re right.
I once heard Deepak Chopra call this as “the law of defenselessness.” It basically goes like this: Have your opinion, but release the pressing need you have to defend that opinion to other people. It’s fine to just believe something and not spend a bunch of time justifying your point of view, especially when the issue in question is just an opinion. (TIP: Most things — including those things you’re certain you’re right about — are actually opinions.)

18. You really can achieve just about anything.
It may take you a while, but you can in fact achieve most reasonable things and plenty of unreasonable things. You’ll see that if you stop deciding that things are impossible before even trying. (See also: Everyday Legendary’s central premise.)

19. The people you look up to are just as nervous as you are.
Succeeding gets a lot easier when you realize that everyone who has ever succeeded has doubted that things will work, has failed terribly, and has generally been where the rest of are: worrying and certain that they aren’t good enough. (Bonus fact: Those people you look up to also don’t start being bulletproof and perfect AFTER they’ve succeeded. They actually remain human until the day they die.)

20. Your worst-case scenario is seldom very bad.
Here’s a fun game: Ask yourself “what’s the worst that could happen?” about the thing that worries you most, and then keep asking it until you can’t ask anymore. Then, when you’re at the bottom of that chain of questions, ask yourself how terrible that end result would really be. Here’s an example: I might lose my job > I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills > I would lose my house and car > I’d have to declare bankruptcy > I’d have to move in with mom/dad/grandma or bum on a friend’s couch and have a bad credit rating. Now: is that scenario really THAT bad? Did you die? Are you ruined forever and ever? Will you be tortured? The truth is that most “worst case scenarios” are merely inconvenient, uncomfortable, or embarrassing.

So that’s my list. What are some of yours?


  1. sarah says:

    Number 20 hasn’t helped. My worst case senario is that my daughter will actually kill herself, smallest chain ever! 🙁

    • Sarah, sometimes our worst-case scenarios are indeed bad. I’m sure you doing whatever you can to help her. I hope you are also getting help to keep yourself strong. My thoughts are with you.

    • Johnny says:

      Sometimes the worst-case scenario is truly damn bad. Hope this all works out for both of you.

  2. Ed Qualls says:

    The problem with “12. Nobody cares if you succeed.” is that it’s a too common, unfortunate millennialist truth, with its demonstration of how people now fail to realize that, economically, no one can succeed unless/until at least someone starts to succeed. This is the problem that American businesses must realize, particularly in terms of marketing to US consumers while outsourcing everything they possibly can to other markets: you cannot sell anything unless your customers are already making money, too. If your target market is not successful, there is absolutely no way for you to be successful in that market. Aunt Margaret needs to realize that, unless you get some sales of your book, you won’t be able to bid on her pies at the bake sale, and the higher you can bid (or force the bidding), the better her reputation (and the greater her clout) with the sewing circle!

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  5. MansDrive says:

    Thank you for sharing these wise lessons

  6. gulshan kumar says:

    Yes you are right in most of cases. Actually we humans are programmed to ignore the truth and waste our entire life wandering around useless things. we are lazy we dont do things we blame but we never notice our selves.

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    What do you think about this? Agree or disagree?

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