Lies You've Been Told About the World
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Today at a Glance
- What do you think you're in the top 0.1% of the world at? This question from a friend sparked me to think deeply about my own answer. I would encourage everyone to think about the question for themselves.
- My response: I legitimately enjoy being wrong. My father once told me that the most important thing wasn't being right; rather, it was finding the truth. From that point forward, I began embracing new information as “software updates" to improve upon the old.
- One result of this practice has been the logging of a long list of "truths" that I now believe are anything but. In today's piece, I share a portion of that list: 23 lies you've been told about careers, business, life, and more.
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Lies You've Been Told About the World
Last week, a friend asked me an interesting question:
"What do you think you're in the top 0.1% of the world at?"
My initial reaction was to respond with "nothing"—not because I don't think I'm good at anything, but because I tend to think of myself as more of a generalist than a specialist.
As I considered the question more, I realized that I do have one unique trait that has allowed me to continuously grow, improve, and compound over the years:
I legitimately enjoy being wrong.
When I was young, after another bout of stubborn behavior, my father told me that the most important thing wasn't being right; rather, it was finding the truth.
This stuck with me. From that point forward, I began embracing new information as “software updates" to improve upon the old. I began seeking out information that would disprove my most firmly held beliefs.
One result of this practice has been the logging of a long list of "truths" that I now believe are anything but. In today's piece, I'd like to share a portion of that list.
Without further ado, here are 23 lies you've been told about careers, business, life, and more...
Lie: Money is the only type of wealth.
In reality, there are 5 types of wealth:
- Financial (money)
- Social (relationships)
- Physical (health)
- Mental (health, knowledge, faith)
- Time (freedom)
The blind pursuit of financial wealth can rob you of the others. Never let that happen.
My rough working framework for the goal: use incremental financial wealth as a tool to increase your other types of wealth.
Note: This is a topic I have become thoroughly obsessed with (potentially to the point where it may become the core subject of a debut book!). You can expect a deep-dive newsletter on it in the weeks ahead.
Lie: Money can buy happiness.
I used to see people with money and assume everything in their life must be amazing. I used to assume that they were happy all the time.
I was wrong.
Money is very directly correlated with happiness up to a baseline level of needs (food, shelter, etc.). Beyond that level, there are clear diminishing returns to the happiness derived from each incremental dollar. In some cases, there is negative utility from an incremental dollar as it adds new stress ("mo money, mo problems" right?).
The key is to identify:
- Your current state of income, wealth, and happiness.
- The "happiness return" on an incremental dollar earned. How much happier will you be from an additional $X? Separate the ego and emotion from the question to think about it objectively.
When you have reached the point of deeply diminishing returns, consider prioritizing fulfillment and happiness via another type of wealth.
Lie: There are timelines to achieve things in life.
The timelines we create for ourselves are mostly just arbitrary nonsense.
On my 28th birthday, I was driving and had this random rush of anxiety. I was like “Holy s***, I’m turning 30 next year, and I’ve accomplished nothing. I gotta get going!” Then I remembered I was turning 28—not 29—and felt relieved that I had 2 years to figure out my life...
We create these fake timelines:
- I need to hit [X] title by [X] age.
- I need to have [Y] salary by [Y] age.
- I need to win Forbes [X] under [X] otherwise I'm a failure.
Focusing on these timelines is playing the wrong game. It leads you into dangerous comparison traps—envying others who achieved these things.
There’s no fixed path—you create your own.
Lie: You don’t have to work hard.
It's very in vogue to say hard work is overrated—but it’s not quite true.
What you work on is more important than how hard you work, but if you're striving for great things, you have to work hard.
The framework I use is based on an old essay by Sam Altman:
- You can get to the top-10% by either working hard OR smart.
- You can only reach the top-1% by working hard AND smart.
It's definitely not for everyone, but it's the reality if you are trying to achieve exceptional results.
Lie: You need to have formal mentors.
The concept of “mentorship” has become way too formal. Asking someone to be your mentor can come across as a big commitment.
Instead of focusing on finding a formal mentor, build a Personal Board of Advisors.
The key features of a Personal Board of Advisors:
- Group of 5-10 individuals. The members don't need to know each other or that they are on your board. Informality is a feature, not a bug.
- Unbiased (not family).
- Diverse experiences.
- Willing to provide raw, candid feedback.
As you encounter challenges, key decisions, or inflection points, these are the people that you can reliably turn to for grounded perspectives, feedback, and advice. Use your board to "war game" your key decisions.
Note: This is a topic I'm very passionate about given the impact my board has had on my life and career. You can expect a deep-dive newsletter on this topic in the weeks ahead.
Lie: You need to have the perfect idea in order to build something meaningful.
There’s no shortage of great ideas, just a shortage of people willing to put in the effort to capitalize on them.
Execution requires a combination of:
- Intensity: To execute sprints of focused energy.
- Consistency: To execute a marathon of these sprints.
Ideas are cheap, execution is very, very expensive.
The best way to stand out will always be quite simple: Act.
Lie: You should say no to most opportunities.
It's in vogue to say that you should learn to say no in order to protect your time.
I think it depends.
As a general rule of thumb:
- Early on, say yes—it puts you into growth-conducive situations. Saying yes allows you to expand your luck surface area.
- Once you're established, say no—to focus and build leverage. Saying no allows you to focus on the 10x+ opportunities.
Note: I have built some frameworks for when to say yes and when to say no that I've been pressure testing in recent months. I'll plan to share them in a deep-dive in the weeks ahead.
Lie: Free time is bad.
Hustle culture told you that free time is lost productivity.
The reality: free time is a "call option" on future interesting opportunities.
When you have free time, you have the headspace and bandwidth to pursue new ideas. Free time creates alpha.
Learning when to say no creates the free time necessary to capitalize on the alpha-rich opportunities that arise.
Lie: Very few people have anything of value to offer.
Life gets so much better when you realize you can learn from anyone. No one is too old, young, rich, or poor to teach you something valuable.
Everyone has formed their own map of reality. By gathering data points from the maps of those around us, we sharpen the resolution of our own.
I’ve learned more from a conversation with my Uber driver than on a call with some famous business gurus.
Lie: Big changes will just happen on their own.
I spent most of my life assuming that big changes would simply happen in due course.
I was wrong.
Nothing just happens—that’s for the movies, not real life. You have to kick down the door and blast through to the other side.
I also have a—somewhat contrarian—belief that big decisions are better made fast than slow. Slow typically leads to overthinking and paralysis that keeps people from making the leap. Fast allows you to operate from instinct—to trust your gut.
With the bigger decisions, don't outsmart your common sense.
Lie: Your friends will always be there for you.
Most of your friends aren’t really your friends.
They’re just along for the ride when it’s fun, convenient, or valuable—they'll disappear when it's not.
Your real friends are there when it is none of those things. They are there when you have nothing to offer in return.
Lie: You have to wait for luck to strike.
If you want to get lucky, start increasing your luck surface area.
It’s hard to get lucky watching TV at home. It’s easy to get lucky when you’re engaging and learning—physically or digitally.
Put yourself in a position to get lucky.
Lie: The world is a zero-sum game.
If it bothers you to see other people succeed, you’re definitely not gonna make it.
Distance yourself from anyone who spends time bringing others down.
Celebrate everyone’s wins and you’ll start winning more. A rising tide lifts all boats.
Lie: Your GPA and test scores will define your future.
Once you're past your first job, no one will ask about that stuff—if they do, you shouldn't take that job.
To be successful, you either need to learn how to build or you need to learn how to sell. People who know how to build AND sell are unbeatable.
If you aren't technically-gifted, that's ok (I know I'm not!). Just learn to sell—yourself, your ideas, your vision. If you can do that, you'll always make it.
In the real world, EQ still stands out.
Lie: The world is run by remarkable people.
An empowering realization: Most of the people you admire are unremarkable.
Their success is not due to some intrinsic difference.
They simply built leverage to scale efficiently and had a powerful combination of effort, focus, long-term consistency, and luck.
Lie: Take all the advice that you can get.
Most advice sucks.
It's well-intentioned, but it's dangerous to use someone else's map of reality to navigate yours—even if they're experienced.
Winners learn to filter and selectively implement advice—take the signal, skip the noise.
Lie: You have to be interesting to get ahead in life.
Interesting people sound impressive, but the reality is that being INTERESTED is more important than being INTERESTING.
Interested people ask questions, listen, and observe. They are prone to diving deep to understand the world around them.
They win by compounding knowledge efficiently.
Lie: You’re “too late".
It’s really hard to be “too late” with a mega-trend.
Every time I’ve told myself I was “too late” to invest in a wave of innovation, I was wrong—it was still early.
This fallacy is driven by the fact that humans are terrible at comprehending exponential growth. We see a rapid run-up and assume we're near the peak, when the reality is we have just begun the ascent.
As a rule of thumb, when facing a mega-trend, you’re probably still early.
Lie: You can learn everything you need to know by reading books.
You can read every business and self-help book in the world, but ultimately the only way to learn is by f***ing it up.
Reading and studying is nothing without battle-testing.
Don’t fear failure—just learn to fail smart & fast.
Lie: There are shortcuts to achieve success in life.
Everyone wants hacks or shortcuts, but there’s literally no such thing.
If anyone tries to sell you one, you should run away.
The only “hack” is relentless consistency. It’s not glamorous—and it's not fun—but it works.
Lie: The smartest people always have the best answers.
The most intelligent people don't have the best answers—they ask the best questions.
Asking great questions is how you uncover the truth.
The sharpest minds will listen intently and then ask the one question that drills down to the core of the issue at hand.
It's a legitimate superpower—but one that can conceivably be developed with practice.
Note: I'm working on some frameworks for asking better questions that I will plan to write about in the coming months as they develop.
Lie: You have to become an expert at something.
Society celebrates experts in any given field.
But as author David Epstein finds in Range, many experts succeed because of the range of pursuits that preceded their main endeavor.
Become a polymath. Generalize first, specialize later.
Lie: Most people are bad.
Fear generates clicks—the media knows it and they capitalize on it. So if you watch the news, you're hit by a barrage of pain, suffering, and fear.
The message is to avoid your neighbor—to fear thy neighbor.
Always remember: There are a few bad people out there, but most people are fundamentally good. They just want to be able to provide for their family and live well.
Don't fall into the vicious media trap. Love spreads—love thy neighbor.
Those are 23 lies you've been told about the world.
I'd love to hear from you:
- What are some of the worst lies not included on this list?
- What do you agree with?
- What do you disagree with?
Tweet the link to this article and tag me (@SahilBloom) and I'll be sure to reply. If you're not on Twitter, reply to this email and I'll do my best to get back to everyone.
Until next time...stay curious, friends!