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Life Design Document

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What do you start your day with?

By reading my Life Design Document (in Google Keep). It’s a deeply meaningful document with a specific structure:

General Life Purpose
Who do you want to be?
How can you use your Gifts in greatest service to the world?

Specific Life Purpose
What are you pursuing over the next few years?

What are you mastering over the next 10 years?

How would you express the essence of who you are?

What are your top strengths?

Zone of Genius
What is it that you and only you can do? (Onlyness)
What feels like play to you but work to others?

What are your core values?

How do you want to feel consistently?

Goals for the Year
What is the most important goal for the year?
What are the most important secondary goals for the year?

Why is it important?

Reading it activates me for the day – it has a powerful energizing effect.

Every section is a prompt. I start every day by reflecting on what’s essential, to gain more and more clarity on it.

So there’s value in both reading the answers and in asking the questions anew every day.


Every day I also seek to optimize the document itself. It’s been through quite a few iterations. The document is modular: I can add or remove sections, I can change the order of the sections to maximize the impact while reading (Sequencing), I can add, remove, or modify questions.

Learning Optimization 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I optimize Learning?”

Gain optimal feedback on the quality of your learning immediate feedback after every learning session and daily feedback at the end of every day.

How effective was your learning? (Strategy)

Did you learn the highest-leverage things you could be learning? (Leverage)

Did you learn them in optimal order (so that they optimally build upon one another)? (Sequencing)

How efficient was your learning? (Tactics)

Did you challenge yourself?

How active was your information absorption process? (Understanding Efficiency)
Did you process – that is, deeply reflect on – the information immediately, or just lazily saved it for later?

Did you practice deliberately? (Practice Efficiency)
Did you actually have deliberate practice time?

Always keep in mind the central tenet of Essentialism:

Less, but better. (Greg McKeown)

On Leverage and Clarity

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What are the highest-leverage things you could reflect – and incrementally make progress – on?”

“I need to give it some thought.”

“Having to think about it every time signals inefficiency. It means there’s room for optimization.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“Gain clarity on it once, and make the insight persistent.

Make an open list of the highest-leverage things you could reflect on. I call it the HL List. You can call it any way you want.

In the (inevitable) moments when you lack a clear focus, check the list and resume a path that feels most appealing in the moment.”


Distinguish between rational fears, with real consequences, and irrational fears, where there really aren’t any consequences. (Tim Ferris)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I become antifragile?”

Aim not just for courage, but fearlessness.

“Isn’t fear useful? It keeps us alive.”

Some fears are useful; most fears are useless. Useless fears are irrational. Useless fears are the main obstacle that keeps you from reaching your potential.

Whenever you experience fear, ask yourself:

Is this a useful or a useless fear?

Every time you identify a useless fear, practice fearlessness.”

On remembering what’s essential

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“There are moments when I can’t remember what’s essential.”

“Temporary forgetting is inevitable. You can hold nothing in mind indefinitely. So be prepared for it.

Have a ritual for reminding yourself of what’s essential.

“What do you have in mind?”

“I’m thinking journaling/questioning

Take a piece of paper and ask yourself questions:

What’s essential?

What’s important?
What’s important now?
What’s the most important thing?

What’s the priority?

I’m also thinking reading

Read from a selection [<link] of the most powerful ideas you know that remind you of what’s essential. As you know, reading a couple of them one after another has an emotional flooding [<link; short read] effect.”

Deconstructing Presence

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What does it mean to be present?”

“It’s useful to ask the opposite question: (Inversion)

What does it mean to not be present?”

“Does it mean to not be in the present – that is, to be in the past or the future?”

“Being in the past or the future actually means thinking about the past or the future. 

It is possible to not be present while thinking about the present, or about things that are atemporal – ideas, for instance.”

“Does this mean thinking is the main obstacle to presence?”

“Let us think what thinking does. It makes you lose touch with your sensory experience, thus miss information coming from your senses.

Metaphorically, thinking takes up mental bandwidth; the more it takes up, the less is left for awareness.”

“Then, does not being present mean to be unaware of your sensory experience?”

“Clearly, you’re not present if you’re not aware of any information from your senses.

What if you’re aware of some sensory information? For instance, you’re aware of a sound in the environment, but unaware of your physical sensations. So you’re aware of audio information but not kinesthetic information. Are you present in this case?”

“I’m thinking some sensory information is more important. In our case, kinesthetic information is more important than audio information because it provides internal feedback. Kinesthetic information builds self-knowledge.”

“So does not being present mean being unaware of your kinesthetic sensory experience?”

“What if you’re narrowly aware of your kinesthetic sensory experience but unaware of you environment?”

“Reminds me of Michael Ashcroft’s idea of collapsed awareness. Maybe being present means expanded awareness – being aware of both your kinesthetic sensory experience and your environment.

“Something to consider.”

The Art of Perception 11

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I beautify any activity?”

“Look at it through a filter of Meaning. 

How is this a Gift?

One way to answer it is by saying to yourself two mantras:

I can/am able to do this.

What (visible and invisible) systems enable you to do it, and how are they interconnected?

I get to do this.

How is it an opportunity?
What values/virtues does it allow you to practice?
What does it teach you about yourself?”

The Art of Perception 10

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Pay attention to the gifts around you.”

“Attention is one component of it. The other component is Meaning.

You see what you pay attention to.
You pay attention to what you consider meaningful. Everything else is invisible [<link; very short read].

We have a perceptual map of the world. This perceptual map is largely a map of meaning. In expanding the map, you’re expanding your reality.”

“How do you expand your perceptual map?”

“This is a game in itself.

All the things you usually notice form a perceptual pattern. This pattern traces the boundary of your reality. One way to expand your map is to regularly break this pattern. 

Make it a habit to look at things you don’t normally notice and ask yourself:

How is this a gift?

The Gift of Attention

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Attention is one of our most important resources. It creates our reality.

Attention is a Gift – your Gift to the world (Gift-Giving), and the world’s Gift to you (Gift-Receiving).”

What if you expressed Gratitude every time someone offered you the Gift of their Attention?

“Thank you for your Attention.”

“My pleasure, dear.”

The Art of Asking Questions 5

The best thing that can happen to a human being is to find a problem, to fall in love with that problem, and to live trying to solve that problem unless another problem even more lovable appears. (Karl Popper)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I’d replace ‘problem’ in Popper’s quote with ‘question’. Questioning is wider in scope than problem-solving. 

Some questions focus on solving problems; others focus on understanding; others on optimization.

‘Find a question, fall in love with that question, and live trying to answer that question unless another question even more lovable appears.'”

“Does it have to be just one question?”

“No. I have a growing list of open questions that I find particularly interesting. Some are big, some are small, all are beautiful.

A higher-order aspect of the process is to discover how they interconnect.”

“If you were to pick a central question for your life, what would it be?”

How can I make my life a work of art and inspire others to do the same?