Most Valuable Notes 1

The Notes app on my iPhone essentially functions as my journal. I write in Notes almost every day, and the following is a collection of what I’ve found to be among the most valuable notes I’ve taken over the years.

Note on Notes: most of these are my own thoughts, ideas, conceptualizations, etc., many of which are inspired by reading and listening to others. Some of these are direct concepts from other people that I’ve re-worded, re-conceptualized, or expanded, and I will do my very best to credit sources where appropriate. Others are direct quotes, and I will note their sources.


– Any virtue carried to its extreme becomes a vice.

– You never know what worse luck your bad luck might have saved you from.

– You can always frame your own experience. There is probably at least some truth to your positive perception, so run with that. Look at the facts only, then frame everything else surrounding the facts as you wish. [cognitive reframing] [positve-realistic framing]

– Did you really have a bad day? Or did you have a bad 20 minutes?

– When interacting with others, remind yourself to constantly appreciate the amazing difference and amazing sameness across all individuals. Study others – everyone has something interesting about them, or they at least have something to teach you. Maintain an attentive attitude toward people based in patient & kind curiosity.

– Gently remember that feeling busy is just part of maturing, part of giving back and contributing. This feeling will become more and more normal – you will adapt naturally over time, but try to consciously adapt and even embrace things as often as possible.

– Personal finance is more personal than it is finance. Know yourself first, then think accordingly about spending & saving.

– Somebody somewhere is on your side. No matter what, there are always people in this world who would agree with you, who would like you, or would at least somehow identify with you if they were there. Knowing this helps to maintain secure authenticity and be true to yourself, and it helps to maintain a sense of calm leadership. There are always people out there who can relate to you in some way. Knowing this is a powerful tool to use when feeling social doubt – it’s a genuine form of security and self-trust to help you feel confident & connected no matter what.

– Judgment vs non-judgment: a clue to judging is labeling, particularly labeling something good or bad or right or wrong; also, use of the word “should” is almost always indicative of judging. Judgment is a primary sustainer of ego and thus suffering. Judgment is insisting on ideals, and ideals are often not attainable, especially immediately. Non-judgment involves noticing, observing, and conscious examining without really qualifying it, or him or her, at all. “Discernment” is key for non-judgment: being able to tell the difference between what we want or what ‘should be’ from what ‘is’.

– The keys of body relaxation: untensing from face to feet, stillness (or slowed steadiness of necessary movement), breathing (particularly focusing on long & steady exhales), outward focus, and connection to the environment around you (which involves widening and maintaining attentive vision).

– There are days when I am tired. There are days when I am sore or in pain. There are days when I am stressed. There are days when I feel anxious. There are days when I feel down or low. But these are just temporary states. These physical or emotional states are not me. They are not lasting. They are not my consciousness, nor are they my values, nor are they my core personality traits or core behavioral traits. These states are not my character. Don’t mistake rough mornings or bad days, or even bad weeks, as indicative of who you truly are.

– There’s almost never a one-size-fits-all solution to any psychological affliction or relational issue. Human matters are complex and thus solutions are complex. There are almost always deeper layers to significant emotional and relational problems.

– Sharon Salzburg: A good life entails Connection, Ethics, Clarity. (I would add [3 closely related words that also make a good life]: Relationships, Virtue, Awareness.)

– Life can suck, but ‘aliveness’ never sucks. Life can be hard, but aliveness is always awesome. The quality & state of being alive always constitutes a feeling of joy.

– The reason you’re suffering is you are too focused on yourself. Suffering comes from three thought patterns: the illusions of Loss, Less, Never. We think something has caused us to lose something. We think we have less of something – we think there’s less of what we had in the past or less of what we expected to have. And we think/ruminate about things that will never be the same again, or about things that we will never do something because someone or something has caused these constraints upon us. (Tony Robbins, I think from the Tim Ferris podcast. I’m not a follower of Tony Robbins, but I think some of his stuff is important and valuable, like this concept.)

– While your current state may not be your fault, it is your responsibility to manage your conditions. – Daniel Siegel

– My thoughts on Enlightenment:

— Enlightenment is not a destination. There is no “there” to be reached: Once you get “there” (wherever it is) you’ll have to exert effort to stay there, and then there will always be other places to go, or other mindsets to explore, other behaviors to master, etc.

— Enlightenment is the ‘capacity’ to genuinely experience peaceful joy from nothing other than your aliveness – it is the ability to notice and deeply and genuinely appreciate being at any given time; it’s the ability to feel stressed or upset or uncomfortable or painful yet still feel a deeper sense of stability and peaceful acceptance in the midst of challenging conditions, all while being conscious of your deeper peace & stability.

— Enlightenment is the ability to maintain inner peace, regardless of conditions, which stems from a continuous deep awareness and conscious gratitude. Enlightenment is a state of deeply understanding and deeply accepting the fact that we cannot experience elated joy at all times, and deriving deep equanimous peace from that understanding and acceptance.

– If a career ambition comes at a great cost to your most fulfilling relationships, it is almost definitely not worth pursuing.

– The desire or craving for positivity & feeling happy is paradoxically creating more unhappiness. Feeling positive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a “good” experience, just as feeling negative doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a “bad” experience. In addition to desire and aversion, the constant labeling of good or bad experience is also a condition that will perpetuate unhappiness.

– Best Piece of Relationship Advice (from my Dad!…if he ‘had to give’ one bit of advice): “NEVER FEEL SORRY FOR YOURSELF in a relationship.” …If you’re committed to staying in the relationship, you shouldn’t ever be feeling sorry for yourself. And, to accompany that, “There will definitely be major imbalances at various points in time, and you just have realize that, suck it up, and do the best you can, even if you feel like you’re doing all the work.”

– My additional advice to Dad’s advice above:  You are being short-sighted in those moments when you don’t think your partner is bringing much to the table – you are forgetting his or her better, deeper qualities.

– Three most important aspects of life: Connection, Vitality, Contribution (Jonathan Fields on the Good Life Project podcast)

– Perhaps the single most functionally important concept of Buddhism, especially as it pertains to managing suffering or stress, is that of desire & aversion. (More specifically, desire in the form of craving & clinging (deep, ego-driven desire) and aversion in the form of intense resistance [especially resistance to what we cannot change]). If you can learn to let go of craving, clinging, and of active resistance (to pain, ego defense, or unchangeable stress), then this is the most direct route to achieving & sustaining liberation & enlightenment.

– Perhaps the most useful & most important tool in my toolbox – the hammer/screwdriver/multi-tool – is ‘not thinking about one’s self’. That is, applying this tool means actively putting my attention outside of my own self, and engaging something that does not involve my current thinking or feelings. It entails disengaging my ego, letting go of craving & clinging, and engaging purposeful action…

– No self, no problem.