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The Essential Few Should Dominate

"Think of your life as an overgrown garden. You have a limited amount of time and energy (and money and attention) to cultivate that garden. You can try to tend to every single plant but then the few that truly matter to you aren't going to get the attention they deserve. Or you can go through and pull up the weeds—cut out the nonessentials—so that what remains can really thrive. That is the Essentialist approach to editing your life."

Section: 3, Chapter: 13

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

Would You Rather Regret Action Or Inaction?

any of us instinctively avoid risk - we choose the path of least resistance. But playing it safe has a cost. We miss out on growth, adventure and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We reach old age wondering "what if?" Perkins' antidote is the "would you rather?" test:

  1. Think of a risk you're considering - starting a business, changing careers, moving to a new country
  2. Fast-forward to age 80 and ask "Would I rather have taken this risk and failed, or not taken it at all?"
  3. Pick the choice you'd prefer to live with long-term

More often than not, the bolder path will feel more authentic. You'll value having tried, even if you didn't succeed. Of course, don't be reckless. But err on the side of (calculated) action. Bet on yourself. Regrets of inaction cut the deepest.

Section: 1, Chapter: 9

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

The Time-Bucketing Process

Ready to start time-bucketing your life? Here's how:

  1. Brainstorm a list of all the experiences you'd like to have in your lifetime. Go wild - include anything that excites you, regardless of cost or difficulty.
  2. Group these experiences into 5 or 10-year "buckets" based on when you'd ideally have them. Be realistic - put physically demanding activities in your younger buckets.
  3. Within each bucket, rank your experiences by priority. Which matter most to you?
  4. Begin pursuing your top-priority experiences in your current bucket. Don't put them off - remember, every bucket has an expiration date!
  5. Repeat the process every 5-10 years.

By time-bucketing, you ensure you're always investing your life energy in the most fulfilling way possible. You live life by design, not default.

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Become A Journalist Of Your Own Life

To discern the essential from the non-essential, we need to look at our choices through the lens of an investigative journalist:

  • Search for the lead in the story of your life. What really matters?
  • Stop hyper-focusing on all the details. Take a step back to see the bigger picture.
  • Keep a journal. Writing forces you to think through what's essential.
  • Get out of your own head. Go out into the field to gain real world insights.
  • Be fully present. See what is right in front of you, not what might happen later.
  • Clarify the question you are trying to answer before jumping into execution mode.

Section: 2, Chapter: 6

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

Experiences Accrue Compound Interest

Just like financial investments, experiences can generate compounding returns over time. Perkins calls these "memory dividends." Here's how it works:

  1. You have an experience (the initial investment)
  2. You reflect on the experience over time, gaining intrinsic enjoyment (the dividends)
  3. You share the experience with others, gaining connection and relational equity (compounding the dividends)
  4. The experience becomes part of your identity, paying ongoing existential dividends

Because memory dividends often accrue for decades, long after the upfront cost is paid, experiences can have immense long-term ROI. And the earlier in life you invest in an experience, the longer you have to reap the dividends.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Mortality Risk - Use It Before You Lose It

The flipside of longevity risk is mortality risk - the possibility that you die much sooner than expected. This risk is why postponing experiences (especially active ones) is dangerous. You never know how much health and time you have left. Perkins argues we should weight mortality risk more heavily than longevity risk when making financial decisions, for three reasons:

  1. You can insure against longevity risk (with annuities, pensions, etc.) but not mortality risk. Once an experience is lost, it's lost forever.
  2. Experiences are often more valuable (provide more fulfillment) when you're younger. Would you rather take that dream trip at 30 or 80?
  3. Pursuing experiences keeps you engaged and active, which can actually increase your lifespan.

Oversaving provides no such benefit. Of course, you shouldn't be reckless. But weighting mortality risk reminds us that the clock is always ticking.

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Your Money Or Your Life Energy?

Early in his career, Perkins read the book "Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki Robins and Joe Dominguez. It completely transformed his relationship with money and work. The key ideas:

  • Every dollar you earn represents life energy spent to get that dollar
  • So spending money is actually spending precious hours of your one life
  • The goal is to maximize fulfillment from those hours, not to maximize dollars

This means not wasting life energy on meaningless purchases, but also not hoarding life energy (money) so long that you never get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Perkins started calculating the true hours of life energy each purchase cost and whether it was worth it. This allowed him to better optimize his life energy, not just his money.

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

The Fulfillment Curve

To visualize optimizing your life, Perkins introduces the "fulfillment curve." Here's how it works:

  1. Write down the experiences you want to have in life (e.g. traveling, learning an instrument, going back to school).
  2. Assign each experience "fulfillment points" based on how much it would enrich your life. More meaningful experiences get more points.
  3. Chart out the total points you could earn each year/decade of your life.
  4. Optimize your curve. Rearrange your experiences and spending to maximize the area under the curve (your total lifetime fulfillment).

Most people's curves are suboptimal - with too much unfulfilled potential (area above the curve). By shifting spending earlier and converting unspent dollars into experiences, you can create a taller, fuller fulfillment curve.

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Health Is The Ultimate Amplifier

In the experience-maximizing equation, Perkins identifies three key variables:

  1. Time (to have experiences)
  2. Money (to pay for experiences)
  3. Health (to enjoy experiences)

Of these, health is the ultimate amplifier or limiting factor. With great health, you can energetically make the most of your time and money at any age. But poor health limits your options, no matter how much time and money you have. This is why investing in health is so critical. Think of health as an "experiential multiplier" - the better your health, the more experiences you can fully engage in per dollar and hour.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Life Is Poker, Not Chess

In Chapter 1, Annie Duke argues that life is more like poker than chess. Chess contains no hidden information and little luck, so the better player almost always wins. But in poker and in life, there are unknown variables and luck involved. Even the best decision doesn't always lead to a good outcome, and a bad decision can sometimes work out due to luck. Duke uses examples like Pete Carroll's famous goal-line call in the Super Bowl and how the same play call would have been deemed brilliant rather than idiotic if it had worked.

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: Thinking in Bets

Author: Annie Duke

Facing Mortality Requires Courage - in Very Particular Forms

Gawande draws on Plato's dialogue Laches to explore the special courage needed to reckon with aging and death well. Fearing debility and demise is natural. But confronting those fears constructively requires two distinct types of bravery:

  1. The courage to confront the reality of mortality - to seek out the truth of what's likely to happen, what choices exist, and what sacrifices they entail.
  2. The courage to act on those truths - to make tough decisions, have difficult conversations, and shape the end of life according to one's priorities.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: Being Mortal

Author: Atul Gawande

A Living Inheritance For Yourself

Most people spend their lives toiling away, saving every spare dollar to pass on a large inheritance. Perkins flips this script. What if, instead of saving every spare dollar for your kids' inheritance, you spent some of it giving yourself a "living inheritance" - the gift of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, enjoyed to the fullest while you're still healthy enough? Your kids will likely get more joy from seeing you thrive than from receiving a slightly larger inheritance. And you can still leave them plenty if you give strategically while living. Ultimately, your life energy is too precious to sacrifice entirely. Invest in experiences for both yourself and your loved ones. That's a life well lived.

Section: 1, Chapter: 5

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Discomfort and the Avoidance of Finitude

Understanding the root cause of distraction can empower us to manage it more effectively. We can:

Acknowledge the discomfort: Accept that facing our limitations and uncertainties is inherently uncomfortable.

Resist the urge to escape: Instead of seeking distractions, focus on the present moment and the task at hand.

Develop a tolerance for discomfort: Gradually increase your capacity to stay present with challenging experiences.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Four Thousand Weeks

Author: Oliver Burkeman

Patients' Changing Priorities as Illness Progresses

Gawande cites research showing that terminally ill patients tend to care less about survival and other traditional medical priorities than about:

  • Avoiding suffering
  • Strengthening relationships with family and friends
  • Maintaining dignity and control over daily life
  • Having a sense that their life is complete

But these priorities often go unspoken in a system focused on beating disease. Even facing certain death, only a third of terminal cancer patients report end-of-life discussions with doctors. As a result:

  • 40% get chemotherapy in their last two weeks, usually with little benefit
  • Two-thirds never enter hospice care or only in the last few days
  • Half die in hospitals or nursing homes, often tethered to machines, in pain, with family unprepared

Patients need guidance weighing not just medical options but existential ones, while still supporting their need for hope.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Being Mortal

Author: Atul Gawande

The Lunch That Changed Everything

When Perkins was in his early 20s, making $18,000 a year as a junior trader, he proudly told his boss Joe Farrell that he had managed to save $1,000. Instead of praise, Farrell called him a "f***ing idiot." Farrell pointed out that Perkins was on a high-earning career path, so his future self would be much richer.

By saving so much now, Perkins was depriving his poor current self just to pad the pockets of his wealthy future self. This blew Perkins' mind. He realized the importance of balancing present enjoyment with delayed gratification. Overdoing either one would lead to a life of regret. This lunch conversation set Perkins on the path of trying to optimize his money and time for the most fulfilling life possible.

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

The Gazillionaire With No Ability To Enjoy

"Let's say you're on your deathbed and you're a gazillionaire. You have all the money in the world but you have no ability to enjoy that money. You are no longer a gazillionaire; you are merely a person who is about to die. All that money is now meaningless to you. It has no value because you have no ability to exchange it for positive life experiences. If you find yourself in this position, you have made a huge mistake."

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

The Hidden Expiration Dates Of Life

Just as Perkins' daughter aged out of Heffalumps, we all age out of specific life experiences. Physical activities, family dynamics, hobbies, relationships - each has a lifespan. But unlike food products, these lifespans aren't clearly marked. There's no tag saying "Best By: Age 40" on your running shoes or "Expires: May 2025" on your friendships. Yet the expiration dates exist. Every day, we lose access to experiences we'll never get back. This is what Perkins calls the "many deaths" we die before our final death. To make the most of life, we must become aware of these hidden expiration dates. We must savor each life chapter while it lasts.

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

The Heffalump Principle

Perkins shares a poignant story about his daughter outgrowing the beloved "Pooh's Heffalump Movie." For years, watching the movie together was a cherished family tradition. Then one day, his daughter declared she was too old for Heffalumps. The abrupt ending blindsided Perkins. In hindsight, he wishes he'd savored those father-daughter viewings more when he had the chance. The experience crystallized for him the fleeting nature of life's chapters. We often assume our current joys will last forever. In reality, every life stage has an expiration date. By recognizing this, we can be more intentional about savoring experiences before the window closes.

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

The Meaning Of Life Is Meaning

"People who find their lives meaningful usually have a goal that is challenging enough to take up all their energies, a goal that can give significance to their lives. We may refer to this process as achieving purpose...Devoting oneself to a cause greater than oneself is among the most noble traits of a life well-lived."

Section: 1, Chapter: 10

Book: Flow

Author: Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

The Sunny Side Of Death

In the final chapter, Manson makes the case that contemplating mortality, as morbid as it seems, is crucial for living well. Death is the only certainty, the one experience every human will share, and our awareness of it can be a powerful driving force when harnessed correctly.

Manson relates his own brush with death in a poignant story about getting dangerously close to the edge of a cliff in South Africa. In that heart-stopping moment, all his petty concerns and daily anxieties fell away, replaced by a sudden vivid appreciation for his finite time on earth. He realized that death isn't just an abstract fact, but a visceral reality that puts everything in perspective. The looming presence of death has the power to snap us out of complacency and self-absorption.

Section: 1, Chapter: 9

Book: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Author: Mark Manson

The Three Deathbed Regrets

Bonnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, recorded the top 5 regrets of the dying. Three of them relate directly to Perkins' "Die with Zero" philosophy:

  1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not what others expected of me. (i.e. I wish I'd honored my dreams)
  2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard. (i.e. I wish I'd better balanced work and life)
  3. I wish I had let myself be happier. (i.e. I wish I'd given myself permission to enjoy)

Perkins sees these regrets as tragic wastes of human potential. He argues that by following the "Die with Zero" mindset - aggressively investing in life experiences, optimizing your fulfillment curve, giving yourself permission to enjoy - you can live a life free of these regrets.

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Start Early, Start Now

Many people put off meaningful life experiences until retirement - only to find their health limits their options. To avoid this:

  • Create a "time bucket list" - what experiences do you want to have in each coming decade of life?
  • Be realistic about age restrictions. Aim for physical adventures while you're young and save less active experiences for later.
  • Start investing in experiences ASAP, even if it means going into (responsible) debt like Perkins' friend Jason did. The earlier you start, the more you can improve your fulfillment curve.
  • If you have unfulfilled dreams now, don't put them off. Find a way to pursue them before the window of opportunity closes. Your 80-year-old self will thank you.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Memento Mori - Meditating On Mortality Provides Perspective

One bracing way to cut through trivialities and focus on what matters is to remember you will die. As the Stoics urged, "memento mori" - keep in mind your mortality. When facing an obstacle, ask yourself - if this was my last day, what would I do? How would I face this? Remembering death injects a dose of sobriety and urgency to our actions. It wakes us up and commands us to treat things seriously and make the most of every moment. Let death be a counselor that helps you overcome.

Section: 3, Chapter: 21

Book: The Obstacle Is the Way

Author: Ryan Holiday

The Risk-Reward Sweet Spot

Take your biggest risks when you have little to lose. This is often when you're young, single, healthy and flexible. You can afford to go out on a limb, knowing you have plenty of time to recover if things go south. As you age, your ability to bounce back shrinks. You have more responsibilities, more to lose. You can't afford to start over from scratch.

This is why Perkins urges frontloading your biggest risks. When you're low on resources but high on potential, make your boldest bets. As your wealth and commitments grow, shift to more conservative value protection. The goal is to always occupy the risk-reward sweet spot - enough upside to justify the gamble, but not so much downside that failure would be catastrophic.

Section: 1, Chapter: 9

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Tradeoffs Are An Inescapable Reality

"Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, 'What do I have to give up?' they ask, 'What do I want to go big on?' The cumulative impact of this small change in thinking can be profound."

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

People Die Only Once

"People die only once. They have no experience to draw on. They need doctors and nurses who are willing to have the hard discussions and say what they have seen."

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: Being Mortal

Author: Atul Gawande

You Are Going To Die... And That's Okay

Some suggestions for integrating mortality into daily life:

  • Regularly remind yourself that you and everyone you love will die. Let that awareness guide your choices and priorities.
  • Ask yourself what you want to leave behind. What impact do you want to have? What really matters in the short time you have?
  • Embrace the liberation of limits. When you accept that you can't do and be everything, you're free to focus on what counts.
  • Find something bigger than yourself to dedicate your efforts to - whether it's your relationships, a cause you believe in, or a skill you want to master.

Section: 1, Chapter: 9

Book: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Author: Mark Manson

Existential Overwhelm: The Burden of Infinite Possibilities

The modern world presents us with an overwhelming array of options and experiences, leading to a sense of "existential overwhelm." This feeling arises from the gap between the limited time we have and the seemingly infinite possibilities available. Social media further exacerbates this by constantly exposing us to new desires and experiences.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Four Thousand Weeks

Author: Oliver Burkeman

The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less

The way of the Essentialist is about living by design, not by default. It's a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless. The Essentialist explores more options than the Nonessentialist to make better decisions, then eliminates the nonessentials to make execution easy. Essentialism is not about getting more things done, but getting the right things done.

To become an Essentialist requires a heightened awareness of our ability to choose:

  • We have the power to choose how to spend our energy and time
  • We can either allow nonessentials to overwhelm us, or deliberately choose where to focus our efforts
  • If we don't prioritize our lives, someone else will

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

The Unstoppable Forces of Aging and Frailty

Chapter 2 depicts the inevitable physical and mental decline that comes with aging, as various bodily systems begin failing over time. While medical advances have changed the trajectory of aging, they cannot ultimately prevent the deterioration, frailty and dependence that accompany living into old age for most. People are often unprepared for figuring out how to cope and adapt as their capabilities diminish.

Through the story of Juergen Bludau, chief geriatrician at his hospital, Gawande illustrates a different approach to caring for the elderly. Rather than just trying to fix each health problem, Bludau focuses holistically on helping seniors sustain their capabilities and quality of life as much as possible - being attentive to preventing falls, managing medications, monitoring nutrition, maintaining mobility and social connections. However, this kind of care is underappreciated and undersupported in today's medical system.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Being Mortal

Author: Atul Gawande

Spend More, Earn Less

Once you've hit your net worth peak, your earning and spending patterns should change dramatically. Instead of maximizing your income, your goal becomes maximizing your life enjoyment. This means:

  1. Reducing your working hours (even if it means making less money)
  2. Taking more vacations and sabbaticals
  3. Spending more on experiences, hobbies and relationships
  4. Giving more to family and charity In essence, you're reallocating your life energy from earning to enjoying.

You're transforming net worth into net fulfillment. You're accepting a lower income in exchange for a higher quality of life.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Life Is a Continual Process of Overcoming Obstacles

Obstacles are a constant reality of life. As soon as you overcome one challenge, another emerges. Don't expect things to get easier as you become more successful - often the opposite is true. But facing this fact head-on is empowering. Once you accept that obstacles are inevitable, you can focus your energy on being prepared for them. Continually strengthen your Will, sharpen your Perception, and hone your Action. The obstacle is always there - keep yourself ready to meet it.

Section: 3, Chapter: 23

Book: The Obstacle Is the Way

Author: Ryan Holiday

Organize Your Life Around Your Strengths And Virtues

Take the VIA Signature Strengths assessment to identify your core character strengths and virtues (available free online). Pick one top strength to focus on cultivating each month. Look for new ways to apply the strength in your daily life and reflect on how it contributes to your sense of fulfillment and connection.

Think about how the strength can be used to benefit others, not just yourself. When facing challenges, consider how your strengths can help you cope and maintain your integrity. Choose work and relationships that allow your strengths to be expressed. Make exercising your strengths a daily priority and notice how this affects your overall happiness and sense of meaning over time.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: The Happiness Hypothesis

Author: Jonathan Haidt

How to Make a Life

"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: The Creative Act

Author: Rick Rubin

Rejecting Alternatives To Find Meaning

In Chapter 8, Manson posits that true freedom comes from commitment - from rejecting some opportunities so you can fully invest in others. Meaning and fulfillment require closing doors.

Many people today chase a kind of superficial freedom - the freedom to keep all their options open, to never make a firm choice. But this leaves them spread thin and feeling empty. Commitment is challenging because it involves constraints - giving certain things up for the sake of higher priorities. If you don't reject anything, you stand for nothing. You have to define what you value most, and be willing to let go of the rest. Only then can you experience the rewards of depth and mastery.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Author: Mark Manson

Maximizing Net Fulfillment

"Remember, the goal isn't to maximize net worth, it's to maximize net fulfillment - and that means aggressively investing your life energy in experiences while you still can."

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

The Making And Finding Of Meaning

There are three primary ways individuals discover meaning:

  1. Through creativity and achievement Examples: Composing a great symphony, building a successful company, winning an Olympic medal
  2. Through experiences of love, beauty and connection Examples: Lifelong romance, becoming a parent, enjoying art, feeling at one with nature
  3. Through attitudes adopted in difficult circumstances Examples: Maintaining hope and kindness through hardship, standing up to oppression, facing mortality with grace

These sources of meaning share a common pattern: they all involve embracing challenges, developing skills, and directing attention outward in service of something greater than the self. They are all expressions of flow.

At a societal level, meaning stems from cultural values, symbols and institutions that orient individual goals and behavior. At a personal level, it comes from forging a unique life theme.

Section: 1, Chapter: 10

Book: Flow

Author: Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

"A life worth living can be created in a nursing home."

While acknowledging how difficult it is to transform nursing homes, Gawande draws hopeful lessons from innovators like Thomas and others profiled in the chapter:

  • A commitment to learning what makes life worth living for each individual resident - their tastes, history, quirks, needs for autonomy and privacy
  • Constant effort to give residents choices, variety, and spontaneity within the necessary constraints of safety and hygiene
  • Ensuring strong personal relationships between staff and residents, who know each other's stories
  • Creating an environment full of life and reasons to live - living things, children, music, art, projects, social connection

Medical capabilities are only one part of what nursing homes must provide. Equally vital is supporting the residents' ongoing humanity and opportunities to feel meaning and joy.

Section: 1, Chapter: 5

Book: Being Mortal

Author: Atul Gawande

The Choice Is Ours

When Greg was in law school in England, he realized he had a choice. He could continue down a path he had started, even though it wasn't the right path for him, or he could choose a different path. He chose to quit law school, leave England, and pursue a path of becoming a writer and teacher, which aligned more closely with his passions and strengths. This decision was pivotal in shaping the trajectory of his life and career. It taught him that while we may not always have control over our options, we always have control over how we choose among them.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

Imagine Your Life From Your Deathbed

One of the most powerful exercises for clarifying what matters is to project yourself forward to the end of your life and look backwards. Imagine yourself at 80 or 90 years old, reflecting on how you spent your time and energy. Ask yourself:

  • Who are the people that mattered most? Did I nurture those relationships as deeply as I could have?
  • What experiences brought me the most joy and meaning? Did I prioritize those or put them off for "someday"?
  • What impact did I have on my community and the world? Will I be remembered for making things better?
  • What do I wish I had done more or less of? What regrets or unfulfilled dreams linger?

Section: 5, Chapter: 3

Book: Clear Thinking

Author: Shane Parrish

The Bucket List Fallacy

Many people keep a "bucket list" of experiences they want to have before they die. But Perkins argues this approach is flawed:

  1. It treats all experiences as equally feasible at any age (they're not)
  2. It fails to create a sense of urgency (death is decades away)
  3. It can breed complacency (I'll get to it eventually) Instead, Perkins proposes "time-bucketing" your goals and experiences. This means:
  4. Grouping your goals by life stage (e.g. 30s, 40s, 50s)
  5. Pursuing the goals in their appropriate life stage
  6. Regularly updating your buckets as your life evolves

By time-bucketing, you create clarity and urgency around which experiences to prioritize in each life stage. The result: less regret, more fulfillment.

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Pursue Coherence And Connection For A Meaningful, Fulfilling Life

Haidt's closing advice is to pursue cross-level coherence and connection. Specifically:

  • Cultivate close, committed relationships and prioritize them even when inconvenient. Express appreciation often.
  • Seek work that engages your strengths and passions and links you to something larger than yourself. Focus on mastery, not just success.
  • Find ways to lose yourself regularly in experiences of awe, beauty and self-transcendence, whether through nature, art, spirituality, or service.
  • Reflect on how your life fits into the larger cultural story and pursue goals that are meaningful in that context.
  • Live ethically and cultivate virtues, not just for yourself but for the benefit of your community.

A good life is found in the balance, in the "between" - pursue it there and a sense of meaning and fulfillment will emerge organically over time.

Section: 1, Chapter: 11

Book: The Happiness Hypothesis

Author: Jonathan Haidt

Focus on Enabling a Life Worth Living, Not Just Safety

A key takeaway is that in dealing with the frail elderly, the goal should not just be safety and survival, but enabling them to have a life worth living according to what matters most to them. This requires a fundamental shift in priorities, so that even as health declines, seniors can maintain a sense of autonomy, identity and meaning. Caregiving should center on understanding an individual's definition of well-being and helping them achieve it within the confines of their circumstances.

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Being Mortal

Author: Atul Gawande

Something Beyond Our Selves

Manson references the book "The Denial of Death" by Ernest Becker, which argues that all human behavior is motivated by a deep-seated fear of mortality. According to Becker, because we're the only creatures aware of our own inevitable demise, we seek to escape that terror by constructing meaning and value systems that will outlast us as individuals.

Becker calls these "immortality projects" - like building monuments, amassing fortunes, or creating artistic masterpieces. The urge to leave a lasting mark stems from our refusal to accept the impermanence and unimportance of the self. But ironically, it's only when we're able to face the reality of death and relinquish our self-importance that we can connect to something greater than ourselves.

"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." - Mark Twain

Section: 1, Chapter: 9

Book: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Author: Mark Manson

The Emotional Toll of End-of-Life Caregiving and Decisions

Consider the story of Sara Monopoli, a 34-year-old non-smoking mother diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer while pregnant. After delivering a healthy baby, Sara began chemotherapy, hoping for a cure.

Gawande, her physician, recounts the months of wrenching conversations with Sara and her family about her prognosis, side effects, and fears of death and suffering.

Sara avoided frank discussions, clinging to hope, until treatment landed her unconscious in an ICU at the end. Her family, unprepared, had to decide whether to put her on a ventilator. The situation was anguishing for all.

Gawande argues it's a common tragedy. Patients and doctors alike avoid confronting death. Discussions about priorities and the option to forgo treatment remain rare, even when further interventions become more likely to increase suffering than extend meaningful life.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Being Mortal

Author: Atul Gawande

Ask The Elderly What Really Matters In Life

Gerontologist Karl Pillemer interviewed over 1,000 Americans aged 65 and over, seeking to distill their life wisdom. Across the board, the elders agreed that the key to a fulfilling life is investing in relationships. Their top recommendations:

  • Spend as much time as possible with your children while they are growing up. You can't get those years back.
  • Treat your partner as your top priority. Nurture that relationship above all else.
  • Say what needs to be said to loved ones. Don't leave important things unsaid.
  • Choose a career that is intrinsically rewarding, not just lucrative. Feeling a sense of purpose is more valuable than extra digits in your bank account.
  • Prioritize experiences over things. At the end of life, it's the memories and moments that matter, not material possessions.

Section: 5, Chapter: 2

Book: Clear Thinking

Author: Shane Parrish

Live Essentially

"Whatever decision or challenge or crossroads you face in your life, simply ask yourself, 'What is essential?' Eliminate everything else. We can all purge our lives of the nonessential and embrace the way of the Essentialist—in our own ways, and in our own time, and on our own scale. We can all live a life not just of simplicity but of high contribution and meaning."

Section: 4, Chapter: 20

Book: Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown

Every Dollar Unspent Is A Memory Unmade

To avoid deathbed regrets and unfulfilled potential, Perkins offers these suggestions:

  • Calculate how much life energy (working hours) each dollar represents for you
  • For each big financial decision, quantify the hours of life energy at stake
  • Weigh those hours against the life experiences/memories that money could create
  • Lean towards spending now vs. saving excessively for an uncertain future
  • Give yourself permission to enjoy your money guilt-free
  • Aim to die with zero dollars and zero dreams left on the table

Remember, the goal isn't to maximize net worth, it's to maximize net fulfillment - and that means aggressively investing your life energy in experiences while you still can.

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Our Cruelest Failure

"Our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer."

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Being Mortal

Author: Atul Gawande

Your Money Or Your Time?

One of the biggest obstacles to investing in experiences is lack of free time. Between work, commutes, housework, errands, and family commitments, most adults have very little unallocated time to pursue experiences, hobbies and relationships. Perkins' solution: buy back your time. If you earn $40/hour, paying $20 for a one-hour task (lawncare, housecleaning, etc.) is a great deal. By outsourcing, you free up time for higher-value activities. Of course, this requires having enough money to begin with. But Perkins argues that for most middle-class and above earners, investing money to buy back time will yield significant happiness ROI over the long run. View time, not just money, as a scarce and valuable asset.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

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