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Leading a better life: Three words of advice for the young and ambitious

Came across this superbly written advice by Oliver Emberton, and had to share it with all our friends.

I have three words to change your life: create, big, and defy. Have you got three minutes?

1. Create

Creating things is the secret path that lets you do whatever you want.

How did I become a writer? I wrote. How did I become a programmer? I programmed. How did I become an entrepreneur? I started a company. I never had professional training in any of those things, and it never mattered, because I gave it to myself. You can too. Create the right things and you don’t need a resume. Create things worth noticing, and you will be noticed.

Creating is also a way of extending yourself. Your writing, or your art, or your company – all these things add to you worth, and the right creations fuse and compound over time. Think of it like buying shares in yourself.

Most people make the mistake of permanently exchanging their time for money, aka ‘employment’. This leads to a lifetime trap of spending time to earn money. If instead you invest your time in making things of value, those things can take life of their own, and work for you while you sleep. You’ll be happier and in greater control of your destiny too.

2. Big


The thing no-one tells you about aiming big is that you pretty much always win.

That doesn’t mean you get what you planned; in fact, that almost never happens. But you almost certainly won’t completely fail, and what successes you have will almost always outweigh your losses.

Say you aim to write a single Facebook status. However that goes, you’re not likely to win or lose much. Instead say you aim to write a whole novel. There’s a good chance you will fail to finish, or take five times longer than you expect, or write utter garbagepaste that never makes it past three unhappy relatives. But in the process you will have pushed your skills beyond their point of comfort, and grown immensely. More so than most people do in their whole lifetimes.

If you keep doing this, eventually, something is going to work. And you only need one big win to set you for life.

3. Defy


If you think the world is logical or fair, you’re going to be frustrated and sad most of your life.

The world does, actually, make a lot of sense. But not in the way that you might think. Working hard is not enough. Being smart is not enough. Really wanting stuff is not enough. Your instincts and upbringing may tell you otherwise. They are wrong.

The thing that will hold you back the most, throughout your entire life, will be yourself. You will know what to do. You will want to do it. And yet you will find yourself failing, and you won’t know why.

Most people reflexly blame the world when this happens: “my boss is blind”, “the economy is hopeless”, “girls are stupid”. Externalising leads only to denial and pain. What you need to do – all you need to do – is look inside yourself, and ask what, if anything, you could be doing differently. If you’re certain the problem is outside of your power, drop it, and move on.


Redrawn from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

If you can make a habit of this, all of your energy will only go on things that improve your life, and you’ll free yourself from a tyranny of sadness.



Create, big and defy. These are three things that almost no-one does, which is exactly why you should do them. Just by attempting you’ll be putting yourself at an uncommon advantage. Now go forth and conquer.


All the cool kids also follow Oliver Emberton on Facebook and Twitter.


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