Personal Bible: recent additions on procrastination, life metaphors, Buddhism, and the Power of Now

So I keep a personal bible, a word document to collect and organize my favorite writings and wisdom across just about every topic of interest, from world history to self improvement to tech startups. Just some of the authors included in it: Warren Buffett, Jack Ma, JK Rowling, Rainer Rilke, even a passage from the Bible itself.

Every few months, I add new stuff to the personal bible and remove or prune old stuff. Below is a collection of what I’ve added in this most recent update.

Here’s more on the concept.

Here’s a past update.

Everyone can create such a document for themselves. Like the Christian Bible, it can become a reliable source of strength and support for you, serving as a crutch through hard times, or as a simple daily reminder of what’s wonderful and wise in life.

You can modify or improve on mine if you like. Here’s the PDF download.

All notes below are copied verbatim from the original text, unless otherwise noted.


Howard Stevenson on why juggling is a better metaphor for life than balancing

I think it’s about juggling. The juggling metaphor is a lot more apt. One of the things about juggling is that you’ve got to keep your eye on all the balls. A second thing about juggling is each time you touch something you have to give it energy. You’ve got to throw it up in the air so that it takes care of itself while you’re working on the others. You’ve also got to throw the balls thoughtfully and carefully. That requires a lot of practice. The third thing about juggling, though, is you’ve got to catch the falling ball. The most important ball is the one that’s about to hit the ground.

PG’s Life is Short

Relentlessly prune bullshit, don’t wait to do things that matter, and savor the time you have. That’s what you do when life is short.

Your instinct when attacked is to defend yourself. But like a lot of instincts, this one wasn’t designed for the world we now live in. Counterintuitive as it feels, it’s better most of the time not to defend yourself. Otherwise these people are literally taking your life.

PG on Procrastination

That’s the sense in which the most impressive people I know are all procrastinators. They’re type-C procrastinators: they put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff.

Richard Hamming suggests that you ask yourself three questions: What are the most important problems in your field? Are you working on one of them? Why not?

I think the way to “solve” the problem of procrastination is to let delight pull you instead of making a to-do list push you.

Highlights from The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson

the most important causes of change are…in the hidden factors that alter the boundaries where power is exercised.

Most democracies run chronic deficits. This is a fiscal policy characteristic of control by employees. Governments seem notably resistant to reducing the costs of their operations.

Governments have never established stable monopolies of coercion over the open sea…This is a matter of the utmost importance in understanding how the organization of violence and protection will evolve as the economy migrates into cyberspace, which has no physical existence at all.

Bethke Elshtain observed, nationstates indoctrinate citizens more for sacrifice than aggression: “The young man goes to war not so much to kill as to die, to forfeit his particular body for that of the large body, the body politic.”

The average psychotherapist probably gives the patient less good moral advice on how to lead his life than the average Jew would have received from his teacher in the period of Moses.

Highlights from What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula

What we call a ‘being’, or an ‘individual’, is only a convenient name or a label given to the combination of [the Five Aggregates]. They are all impermanent, all constantly changing. ‘Whatever is impermanent is dukkha’

According to Buddhism for a man to be perfect there are two qualities that he should develop equally: compassion on one side, and wisdom on the other.

The moment you think ‘I am doing this’, you become self-conscious, and then you do not live in the action, but you live in the idea ‘I am’

It may be agreeable for certain people to live a retired life in a quiet place away from noise and disturbance. But it is certainly more praiseworthy and courageous to practise Buddhism living among your fellow beings, helping them and being of service to them.

‘Ever mindful he breathes in, and ever mindful he breathes out. Breathing in a long breath, he knows “I am breathing in a long breath”; breathing out a long breath, he knows “I am breathing out a long breath”; breathing in a short breath, he knows “I am breathing in a short breath”; breathing out a short breath, he knows “I am breathing out a short breath”.

He whose senses are mastered like horses well under the charioteer’s control, he who is purged of pride, free from passions, such a steadfast one even the gods envy.

Highlights from The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is, because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it.

Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one: the step you are taking right now. As you become more deeply aware of this one step, you realize that it already contains within itself all the other steps as well as the destination.

You see time as the means to salvation, whereas in truth it is the greatest obstacle to salvation.

The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as he or she is, without needing to judge or change them in any way.

God is Being itself, not a being.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

Warren Buffett on the institutional imperative: “Any business craving of the leader…will be quickly supported”

Cribbed this from a Hacker News comment and wanted to preserve it here. A powerful idea when we can remember it.


Warren Buffett’s 1989 letter to shareholders

My most surprising discovery: the overwhelming importance in business of an unseen force that we might call ‘the institutional imperative.’ […] I thought that decent, intelligent, and experienced managers would automatically make rational business decisions. But I learned over time that isn’t so. Instead, rationality frequently wilts when the institutional imperative comes into play.

For example: (1) As if governed by Newton’s First Law of Motion, an institution will resist any change in its current direction; (2) Just as work expands to fill available time, corporate projects or acquisitions will materialize to soak up available funds; (3) Any business craving of the leader, however foolish, will be quickly supported by detailed rate-of-return and strategic studies prepared by his troops; and (4) The behavior of peer companies, whether they are expanding, acquiring, setting executive compensation or whatever, will be mindlessly imitated.

[…] After making some expensive mistakes because I ignored the power of the imperative, I have tried to organize and manage Berkshire in ways that minimize its influence. Furthermore, Charlie and I have attempted to concentrate our investments in companies that appear alert to the problem.


As Clay Shirky puts it, “institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution”.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

New additions to the Personal Bible: Paul Graham, Jason Lemkin, and the Dilbert guy

A Personal Bible is a collection of your favorite writings. The kind of content you want to remember and make a part of your daily life. You know that feeling when you’ve recently read some great essay, but when you explain it to a friend, you’re only able to give her a vague, handwavy description? That’s why I created this document – so I could know deeply and even memorize the text content that’s most affected me.

Below is the stuff I’m reading lately – a lot of re-reading, actually – which I’ve now added into the document. Here’s a PDF of mine. Hope you can be inspired to save more of your own favorites and create one yourself!

Jason Lemkin’s advice on content marketing [link]

From Scott Adams’s How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big book

You might not think you’re an early-morning person. I didn’t think I was either. But once you get used to it, you might never want to go back. You can accomplish more by the time other people wake up than most people accomplish all day.

Bill Gates famously found ways to hone his technical skills by stealing time on a mainframe. Jobs and Wozniak’s first product involved technology that allowed people to steal long-distance phone calls. Where there is a tolerance for risk, there is often talent.

One of the best ways to detect the x factor is to watch what customers do about your idea or product, not what they say. People tend to say what they think you want to hear or what they think will cause the least pain. What people do is far more honest. For example, with comics, a good test of potential is whether people stick the comic to the refrigerator, tweet it, e-mail it to friends, put it on a blog page, or do anything else active.

Positivity is far more than a mental preference. It changes your brain, literally, and it changes the people around you. It’s the nearest thing we have to magic.

From Paul Graham’s essays

Be Good

“Don’t be evil” may be the most valuable thing Paul Buchheit made for Google, because it may turn out to be an elixir of corporate youth.

The idea of starting a company with benevolent aims is currently undervalued, because the kind of people who currently make that their explicit goal don’t usually do a very good job.

Relentlessly Resourceful

If I were running a startup, this would be the phrase I’d tape to the mirror. “Make something people want” is the destination, but “Be relentlessly resourceful” is how you get there.

How To Make Wealth

There is a conservation law at work here: if you want to make a million dollars, you have to endure a million dollars’ worth of pain.

In industrialized countries, people belong to one institution or another at least until their twenties. After all those years you get used to the idea of belonging to a group of people who all get up in the morning, go to some set of buildings, and do things that they do not, ordinarily, enjoy doing.

I think everyone who gets rich by their own efforts will be found to be in a situation with measurement and leverage. Everyone I can think of does: CEOs, movie stars, hedge fund managers, professional athletes

What made the Florentines rich in 1200 was the discovery of new techniques for making the high-tech product of the time, fine woven cloth. What made the Dutch rich in 1600 was the discovery of shipbuilding and navigation techniques that enabled them to dominate the seas of the Far East.

Number of users may not be the perfect test, but it will be very close. It’s what acquirers care about. It’s what revenues depend on. It’s what makes competitors unhappy. It’s what impresses reporters, and potential new users.

Hiring is Obsolete

It’s hard to judge the young because (a) they change rapidly, (b) there is great variation between them, and (c) they’re individually inconsistent.

How Not To Die

When startups die, the official cause of death is always either running out of money or a critical founder bailing. Often the two occur simultaneously. But I think the underlying cause is usually that they’ve become demoralized.

As long as you’ve made something that a few users are ecstatic about, you’re on the right track. It will be good for your morale to have even a handful of users who really love you, and startups run on morale.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

If all you needed to be happy…

If what most people take for granted were really true—if all you needed to be happy was to grab everything and see everything and investigate every experience and then talk about it, I should have been a very happy person, a spiritual millionaire, from the cradle even until now. If happiness were merely a matter of natural gifts, I would never have entered a Trappist monastery when I came to the age of a man.

…from Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton [Kindle].

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

Favorite jokes I’ve heard over the years

I keep an Evernote of funny jokes I’ve heard over the years. Wanted to share some favorites.


Why did the old lady fall into the well?
She didn’t see that well.

Pretty sure I could build a pyramid today. In 2015. Using only slave labor. If I charged $50 a session for it. And called it “CrossFit Extreme Bootcamp.” – James Myers

The key to being happy isn’t a search for meaning. It’s just to keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually, you’ll be dead. – Mr. Peanutbutter in Bojack Horseman

Every black American is bilingual. All of them. We speak street vernacular and we speak ‘job interview.’ – Dave Chappelle

When I finished high school, I wanted to take my graduation money and buy myself a motorcycle, but my mom said no. See, she had a brother who died in a horrible motorcycle accident when he was eighteen. And I could just have his motorcycle. – Anthony Jeselnik

It’s all about money, not freedom, y’all, okay? Nothing to do with fuckin’ freedom. If you think you’re free, try going somewhere without fucking money, okay? – Bill Hicks

I need my sleep. I need about eight hours a day, and about ten at night. – Bill Hicks

Thirty is the new twenty for men. But forty is still thirty for women. – Jack Donaghy in 30 Rock

Money can’t buy happiness. Money is happiness – Jack Donaghy in 30 Rock

Pets are animals that don’t taste good; that’s probably how we got em, we probably tried to eat all of them, and we said, ok, these don’t taste good, let’s give them first names and sweaters, these over here, we’ll eat these – Demetri Martin
I have an L-shaped sofa…lower case – Demetri Martin

I like how people are complaining about how Arnold’s not a great man anymore because of what he did. Really? I mean, really? Anybody here think they could move to Austria, learn the language, become famous for working out, then be a movie star, then marry into their royalty, and hold public office. How many life times would you need? I’m on my third attempt at Rosetta Stone Spanish! – Bill Burr

it’s not until you’re an adult you appreciate how awesome a dog is. your dreams start dying, somebody cheats on you, bankers fuck up your 401k, you know? then you come home and that dog’s looking at you and he’s like, dude, you’re awesome! it’s like no, dude you…YOU are awesome! – Bill Burr

Don’t worry about who’s following you or who’s not following back. Worry about why that worries you. – Chris Rock

Marriage is hard man. Marriage is so hard Nelson Mandela got a divorce. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in a South African prison getting tortured and beaten everyday of his life for 27 straight years. He got out of jail, spent 6 months with his wife and said, “I can’t take this shit.” – Chris Rock

People are starving all over the world. What do you mean, “Red meat will kill you”? Don’t eat no red meat? No, don’t eat no green meat. If you lucky enough to get your hands on a steak, bite the shit out of it. – Chris Rock

What’s with this sudden choice of disorders we get right now? When I was a kid, we just had crazy people. That’s it, just crazy people. – Ellen Degeneres

Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell people the paint’s wet, and they have to touch it to be sure. – George Carlin

A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff. – George Carlin

The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, “You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.” – George Carlin

You have to stay in shape. My mother started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 now and we have no idea where she is. – George Carlin

I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me – they’re cramming for their final exam. – George Carlin

I saw this wino, he was eating grapes. I was like, dude, you have to wait – Mitch Hedberg

When someone hands you a flyer, it’s like they’re saying, ‘Here, you throw this away.’ – Mitch Hedberg

I don’t have a girlfriend. I just know a girl who would get really mad if she heard me say that. – Mitch Hedberg

The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how much I play, I’ll never be as good as a wall. I played a wall once. They’re relentless. – Mitch Hedberg

It’s really hard to work out what the moral of humpty dumpty is. i can only work out, don’t sit on a wall, if you’re an egg – Ricky Gervais

I’ve had friends who’ve gotten married after a year, a year and a half. really, a year and a half? i’ve had sweaters for a year and a half and been like, what the fuck was i doing with this sweater? – Aziz Ansari

You know, some people say life is short and that you could get hit by a bus at any moment and that you have to live each day like it’s your last. Bullshit. Life is long. You’re probably not gonna get hit by a bus. And you’re gonna have to live with the choices you make for the next fifty years. – Louis CK

My bank is the worst. They are screwing me. You know what they did to me? They’re charging me money for not having enough money. Apparently, when you’re broke, that costs money. – Louis CK

What we’ve done with our modern food supply is absolute insanity. It’s not even real any more. You used to be able to give a kid an apple and they would love it. Kids can’t even taste apples any more. Apples taste like paper to kids now. – Louis CK

I did a show in New Jersey in the auditorium of a technical high school … Technical high school, that’s where dreams are narrowed down. We tell our children, “You can do anything you want.” Their whole lives. “You can do anything!” But this place, we take kids – they’re 15, they’re young – and we tell them, “You can do eight things. We got it down to eight for you.” – Louis CK

A man is in his house, it’s late at night and there’s a knock at the door… and he goes to the door, and it’s a snail. The snail says ‘I’d like to talk to you about buying some magazine subscriptions.’ And the man is furious that he’s been interrupted, so he rears back and kicks the snail as hard as he can, slams the door, goes to bed. Two years later, there’s another knock on the door. He opens it, and it’s the snail, and the snail goes…’What the fuck was that all about?'”- David Sedaris

Where do you find a dog with no legs?
Right where you left it

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.