Simple Truths: My Guiding Signals in a World of Noise


One of the best lessons I’ve learned over the past few years is that — when faced with a difficult decision or challenging situation — rarely is more information the answer.

Instead, what I’ve found to be so incredibly helpful is this idea of “simple truths” (what some may call “first principles”): short snippets of wisdom that have been gathered, carefully curated, and repeatedly learned over years of life experience.

I originally learned of the concept from a French philosopher named Alain de Botton, who’s ideas on education reform are fascinating, and is often quoted as saying “we overeducate ourselves out of simple truths”.

As Alain explains, school teaches us that once we know something, that’s it; you know it, and it’s time to move onto the next chapter. But this is dangerous, because it leads us to believe we understand more than we actually do. That is, knowing something in your head is entirely different than feeling it in your bones.

To truly understand requires repetition; repeatedly learning the same lesson over and over again until it translates from conceptual understanding to daily practice. Understanding an idea is on a much lower dimension than acting on it. For example, knowing that daily exercise is good for you is much different than actually going to the gym everyday.

So every time I move into a new place (5 times and counting over the past 3 years), I start a new wall of simple truths. And then, over the course of my time there, I gather these ‘simple truths’ from all sources: conversations with friends & mentors, books I read, podcasts I listen to, or even just experiences I have. Then, every time I’m faced with a difficult decision or challenging situation, I return back to the wall as my source of guiding light.

Friends who know me well (and have received my countless text messages sharing new addition to the wall) often give me shit about my seeming obsession with “post-it note wisdom”. But in a way, this is my religion. The difference is, instead of becoming defensive or dogmatic about it, I start over more than once a year. I’m always beginning again, gathering new lessons and repeatedly learning them until I can’t *not* remember.

Truthfully, up until now I’ve been pretty insecure about sharing these simple truths outside a core group friends… mostly because I realize that 95% of them won’t resonate with others in the same way they make sense to me. But, as I take down my 5th wall in the past 3 years, I feel a need to be more vulnerable than I’m naturally willing, and share.

For the past 11 months, these 25 simple truths (below) have been my guiding signals in a world of noise. There’s nothing complex about them, but they’ve been so very helpful for me in what may have otherwise felt like hopeless situations.

My hope is that, even if 24/25 pass you by, just 1 (5%) sticks with you; enough that you’re able to feel it in your bones, and not just know it in your head whenever you need it most. After all, as Derek Sivers says, “if information was the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs”.

AJ's Simple Truths 2017-18

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