The Library at the End of the Universe

Thought Experiment Thursday

Somewhere, in a far and remote corner of the universe, there is a library. In this library, there’s a journal for every person on the planet.

When they’re born, it’s empty. But from that day, it gets updated every night. A magic pen writes down all their thoughts for every 24-hour period.

What they did. How they felt. How they saw things.

As they get older, this mystical, self-filling diary grows. It gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Until, one day, like all of us, that person dies.

But then, something interesting happens: The pen starts editing the book. It crosses out entire chapters. It zones in on the important. It turns the diary into a story.

The next day, the book is published. It appears in book stores around the world. It shows up on Amazon. It’s an autobiography. The story of that person’s life.

Your book is not completed yet. But I wonder what it would say.


As always, science isn’t sure, but they estimate we have about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. That’s an awful lot of thinking. How many of those are positive? How many aren’t? Which really serve us and our goals? Which ones don’t?

Imagine how huge that book would be. For an 80-year-old. A 50-year-old. Even a 20-year-old. And if a published book has 10,000 sentences, which ones would make the cut? What would your book say? What would be the title?

“I Was An Accountant For 40 Years. It Was A Huge Mistake.”

“A Truck Hit Me When I Was 20. I Have No Regrets.”

“I Was An Accountant For 40 Years And I Loved Every Minute.”

Above all, I think this experiment shows one thing:

Every human has a book inside them. Just not everyone chooses to write it.

Because the one thing I can’t imagine is that, out of billions and billions of books, any single one would be boring. That you couldn’t learn from it. Impossible.

Somewhere, in a far and remote corner of the universe, there is a library. But this?

This is your story. Make it a good one.

-Nik


About Thought Experiment Thursday: Einstein said we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that created them. Science estimates we have about 35 thoughts per minute. That’s a lot of chances to change our thinking. So on Thursdays, that’s what we’ll practice.

A question opens the mind. A statement closes it. Let’s keep ours wide open.


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Forgiveness Wednesday: Not A Loser

You forgot your keys. But you’re not oblivious.

You missed the deal. But you’re still hunting.

You crashed the car. But you’re not hurt.

You wasted the afternoon. But you’re still awake.

You broke your nose. But you’re not ugly.

Your skills didn’t cut it. But you still have skills.

Your jeans won’t fit. But you’re not overweight.

Your date won’t call you. But you’re still worth loving.

Your boss doesn’t like you. But you’re not a mean person.

You blew past the deadline. But you’re still in business.

Your friend won’t pay you back. But you’re not unreliable.

You fell off the treadmill. But you’re still at the gym.

You spilled your coffee. But you’re not clumsy.

You’re lonely. But you’re still here.

Your post didn’t go viral. But you’re not a bad writer.

You smoked again. But you’re still quitting.

Your report wasn’t perfect. But you’re not lazy.

You lost. But you’re not a loser.

-Nik


About Forgiveness Wednesday: No matter how the week starts, by Wednesday, we’ve had enough time to kick ourselves. We’re human. We make mistakes, we regret them, and we blame ourselves. But the only way we can keep moving on is if we forgive ourselves and those around us. So every Wednesday, forgiveness is what we’ll practice.

Let’s be kind to ourselves so we can succeed.


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How To Develop A Growth Mindset

Image result for john mcenroe breaks racket

From 1980 to 1984, John McEnroe was the #1 tennis player in the world. He was also arrogant, entitled, and angry. For a lot of people, his outbreaks on the court were half the reason to watch.

He made his ball boy pay $20 to someone for more finely ground sawdust to get the sweat off his hands. He broke his racket all the time. He once even threw up on a Japanese lady who hosted him - after which she apologized to him.

John McEnroe was incredibly talented. But he also had what Carol Dweck calls a fixed mindset.

To a fixed mindset, problems are genetic, external, permanent, everyone else’s fault, and can’t be changed. As a result, people like McEnroe try to look smart, avoid difficult situations, and seek approval rather than risk anything to win big.

Contrast that with someone like Michael Jordan, who has a growth mindset. Jordan is known for his die-hard work ethic - and the first billionaire basketball player ever.

From Dweck’s book Mindset:

“When Jordan was cut from the varsity team, he was devastated. His mother says, “I told him to go back and discipline himself.” Boy, did he listen. He used to leave the house at six in the morning to go practice before school. He constantly worked on his weaknesses — his defensive game and his ball handling and shooting. The coach was taken aback by his willingness to work harder than anyone else. Once, after the team lost the last game of the season, Jordan went and practiced his shots for hours. He was preparing for the next year.”

A growth mindset means insisting that life happens for you, not to you. It’s about focusing on what you control, always. To a growth mindset, even the worst events serve a purpose, but it’s up to you to turn them into stepping stones to bigger things.

Having a growth mindset is something you can learn, but it’s a habit that takes time to build. One of, if not the best thing you can do to make this transition, is to change your language in little ways:

  • When you’re facing a challenge or an obstacle, call it a project, not a problem.

  • When you spill your coffee, don’t say you’re clumsy and blame your identity, focus on cleaning it up and say you’ll be more careful next time.

  • When you miss an opportunity, look for another way or where you’ll find the next one, rather than seeing that door as permanently closed.

  • When someone screws up, don’t generalize the failure and drag down the whole team, remember each mistake is specific.

Having a growth mindset is mostly about managing your relationship with failure. If you can turn that from negative to positive, you’ll not just lose more gracefully, you’ll be more focused on actually winning.

The difference between a fixed and a growth mindset is, first and foremost, a difference in perspective.

If you’re committed to better instead of bitter, what goes wrong is just a detour, a distraction, a temporary setback you can handle.

The only question is what you’ll try next. And we’re all waiting for your move.

-Nik


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Monday Zen: The Parable of the Butcher

person slicing green vegetable on chopping board

There was a fine butcher who used the same knife year after year, yet it never lost its delicate, precise edge. After a lifetime of service, it was still as useful and effective as when it was new.

When asked how he had preserved his knife’s fine edge, he said:

“I follow the line of the hard bone. I do not attempt to cut it, nor to smash it, nor to contend with it in any way. That would only destroy my knife.” 

In daily living, one must follow the course of the barrier. To try to assail it will only destroy the instrument.


It’s easy to read this story and think, “wow, what a masterful craftsman.” But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about how we deal with our mistakes.

The reason the butcher’s knife remained sharp all these years isn’t that he used it perfectly. It’s that, whenever he came against bone, he slowly felt it, moved along, and worked his way around. He didn’t try to force through. He adapted. Like water.

Bruce Lee told this story in Striking Thoughts. It’s another way of saying:

Never learn the same lesson twice. You will only lose your edge.

To do this, we have to be willing to think. To sit with our mistakes.

You can learn the stove is hot by touching it, but you will burn your hand. If you hold it just above, the heat might still hurt, but you won’t take damage. That’s following the course of the barrier.

To some extent, we all must feel the heat to learn. But we don’t have to jump into the fire. We don’t have to blunten our edge.

Our brains are our knives. Let’s keep them sharp. Let’s preserve their balance.

So that, after a lifetime of service, they’ll be as good as new.

-Nik


About Monday Zen: Most people hate Monday. Why? In a good life, it’s a day like any other. At the very least, it shouldn’t be worse by default. That’s what Monday Zen is for: To make sure you start the week with calm, poise, and determination.

Let’s not derail our trains of thought before they leave the station. Let’s enjoy the journey.


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How Many Bosses Do You Have?

It's never just one...

It’s a fantasy billions of people share: You walk into your boss’s office and yell: “I quit!”

But that’s just a parable. An analogy that shows we all desire freedom. We want autonomy. To feel in control. Of our time, of our work, of our life.

If we flip this on its head, it means that whatever restricts our autonomy is a boss. Regardless if it’s wearing a tie - or even a person to begin with.

Take time, for example. Time is an unavoidable boss. It forces us to make tradeoffs throughout our whole lives. So that’s a boss we have to learn to accept. But we have many other bosses we volunteer our energy to that aren’t nearly as powerful.

A toxic relationship is a boss you can leave behind any time. A deadline is a boss you can choose to accept - or not. A great boss at work may help you get rid of some of the others in your life. A bad one just adds more of them.

Some of the happiest people I know have had a literal boss all their life - but it was one that helped them get more autonomy. Others, like me, thrive in a boss-less work environment.

Take a minute and count your bosses. Most of them won’t have an office. Some are just you giving up control. Others won’t be as bad as you thought. But you must know who they are. All of them.

Otherwise, you’ll walk into the wrong office and yell: “I quit!”

-Nik


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