How To Accomplish Little And Feel Great

At no time in the world will a man who is sane
Over-reach himself,
Over-spend himself,
Over-rate himself.
-Lao Tzu

All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun?
-Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

Sell not yourself at little price,
being so precious in God’s eyes.

The world wants you to be the best you can be. The message is relentless and you may not have even thought of trying anything less. It has brainwashed you into believing that striving for success is essential for your well-being. What does “best” mean and can everybody be “best”. Many times, striving for best is actually killing you. Well, to be contented and happy you can get away from giving less than your very best. It is about finding the right balance and the right amount of effort and that is a lot less than what you have been led to believe. You will then realize that your commitment to excellence is the source of your trouble. Then you will start to turn everything down a notch.

Mediocrity is the key to happiness. The world does not really care. It is a simple fact of life that your successes and failures really do not matter to nearly everybody alive. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you will feel comfortable and get on with underachievement. Even your friends, colleagues, neighbors and family do not really care for your success; because success is often relative and if you succeed, they have relatively lost. Our sense of satisfaction is relative to our standing relative to others and if we have less we suffer. This constant comparison with people who are more successful, smarter or beautiful breeds frustration and jealousy. It is suffering. But we all do it. Why?

We have been taught that achievement is our friend. We get positive feedback and rewards for achieving things and negative feedback and punishment for failing to achieve. There is nothing wrong in trying to improve ourselves but we kid ourselves into thinking that achievement is absolutely essential, like an addiction in order to live well. But what it does is it corrupts our bodies, minds, feelings, heart and soul. So the key is to retrain your mind and soul, to develop healthy attitudes to ensure that you never fall into the trap of high-intensity, strive-for-success-at-all-costs thinking. 

Now, let us explore the ten principles of underachievement:

Life’s too short. We all think that we are going to live for ever. But remember, nobody has got out of this world alive so far. In geologic time, that is less than a second away. You can drive yourself into a frenzy trying to do as much as you can while you are here, or you can relax and enjoy your split second. It’s your choice.

Control is an illusion. None of us is in total control of our lives, and if you think you are, then you are under a delightful illusion. Most of your life is not under your control, including your success, wealth, etc. So just relax, and live.

Expectations lead to misery. Because when you have a expectation, there is a good chance that something will go amiss.

Great expectations lead to great misery.

Achievement creates expectations. Expectations to do better, and better, and better, and…. suffering.

The law of diminishing returns applies everywhere. Benefits don’t continue to accrue at the same rate as effort or investment, whether it is money, swimming pool, tennis court, pool table, penthouse, or the 100 dollar wine bottle. At some point, in almost any endeavor, the curve flattens out and may even begin to dip. More is not always better, and good enough is good enough.

Perfect is the enemy of the good. If you want to be perfect, then the adequate, enjoyable, or even plain good won’t do  and that is horrible. If something is worth doing at all, sometimes it worth doing imperfectly.

The tallest blade of grass is sure to be cut. Accomplishment is not usually the source of admiration, it is usually the source of envy and resentment. If you are the best, make sure others do not recognize it.

Accomplishment is in the eye of the beholder. Do you really care about what someone has achieved in an activity you neither know or care a whit about?

The 4% value added principle. We are 96% identical to chimpanzees. The most successful and most unaccomplished people-all of us. So being alive itself is a great achievement.


Work slowly and steadily, like the tortoise, not the hare. Make sure you spend time with family rather than be always at work. Spend time on hobbies and things you really like to do. Remember that ugly people have good sex too. Assume that there are many perfect mates you can find and if you have found one already, remember that one is good enough. Don’t demand perfection in your relationships and don’t create expectations in your relationships. Eat what you like in moderation; after all this body is going to rot someday and starving is not going to prevent it. Don’t spend a lot of money on fitness. Just walk. Do something with your upper body. Stretch yourself. Sleep a lot. Be satisfied with little. Then the wealth ratio: what you have/what you want is >1 and you have money to invest which you can put in index funds and match the market and beat 98% of people over the long run. If you live this way you will have healthier, durable relationships, more time to enjoy a wide variety of activities and save money. Don’t stress your kids too much; allow them to blossom in their own way and time. Encourage them but do not pressurize them. Kids are messy and life is messy too but beautiful. Enjoy the messiness. Realize that you are part of the Divine as is everybody else and evolution towards realizing our oneness with the Divine never ends as is the Divine expressing Himself in Her world. We are all on the path and the path is everywhere.

Once you do the above,

peaceful work relations
moderate fitness
smooth commutes
humble faith
sustainable economic growth
low blood pressure

is all yours for the taking.

Underachievement is the key to happiness in your life, and for everyone else around you. Stop worrying about not being perfect. Dedicate yourselves to the pleasures and benefits of mediocrity. Remember, underachievement is not about doing nothing. It’s about the right effort at the right time, in the right place. And not one bit more. Go ahead and start living life to the minimum. Don’t strive for success against your own best interests. Don’t take any so-called achievement seriously. Because you are already good enough.

You must always work not just within, but below your means. If you can handle three elements, handle only two. If you can handle ten, then handle only five. In that way, the one you do handle, you handle with more ease, more mastery, and you create a feeling of strength in reserve.

Pablo Picasso

notes from the book: The Underachiever’s Manifesto by Ray Bennett 


Simple Thoughts On Success

An aspiration has a ladder that will help you climb towards it; a dream is beautiful but always out of reach.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, complex and more violent. It takes genius and courage to move in the opposite direction.

What did you love doing as a young child? When did you last do it? Go and give it a try right now!

When was the last time you stopped and just enjoyed some of the sensory world around you? When did you last take time to look into the night sky?

Business success: Have an idea for a service/product better than what exists. Gather the right people. Create a trusted relaxing environment. Make more money coming in than going out.

Make a list of what you can do, what you love doing, and then do it.

Take more risks; it’s child’s play.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

We have to keep our curiosity alive.

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.

He wasn’t curious about things that would make him successful. He was successful because he was so curious.

Research is what I am doing when I don’t know what I am doing.

It is nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of enquiry. For this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.

Don’t be intimidated by others’ views of what you should find interesting. Trust your instincts and see where your interest takes you.

Remember that it is okay not to know something or to admit that you don’t understand.

Be open-minded; curious people are always keen to challenge their own thinking and experiences.

Don’t take things for granted; be childlike and never stop asking why or how things work.

Reintroduce the word why into your regular vocabulary and not just when something goes wrong. Question something everyday. Curiosity should be a habit.

Make sure you spend time with other people who are hungry to learn and question.

Remember that there doesn’t always have to be a right answer.

Finally, enjoy life. It sounds simple and even a little obvious but I wonder if some of us spend too long just trying to survive it.

To find yourself, think for yourself.

When you were younger did you have dreams? Did they become aspirations? Did you fulfill them?

Big “buts” are definitely bad for your health, but where did they come from and how did they grow so big?

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.

A professional is a solver of problems.

Success is to be measured not so much by the position one has reached in life as by the obstacles he has overcome.

The ability to see issues and problems objectively is a tough skill to master. It is so easy to take things personally and project those issues on to others, sometime, even inanimate objects.

The ability to manage ourselves and to demonstrate that ability to others is vital if we are to fulfill our potential to succeed.

What happened to your dreams and aspirations? Revisit them.

Monitor how and when you use the word but?

Look at the gaps and spaces in your urban environment; they are beautiful.

Don’t project problems on to others? Try to take control, don’t allow yourself to feel like a victim.

Celebrate a problem solved; it’s the pathway to self-management.

You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.

You have to really understand what you want.

Focus and belief are hugely connected; passion and a sense of purpose are vital to find if you are to find the self-discipline to stay the course.

Spend more time being proactive than reacting to the challenges in your life.

You have to keep moving forwards and risk changing even when you have succeeded strongly.

Focused people are organized and disciplined, do not get distracted easily and have realistic and tangible expectations.

Commit to doing something. Process rather than outcome. Dwell in the present, not the past or the future. Block out all distractions.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

Simple does not mean easy.

You must have the clarity of belief, a passion for what you want to do. You must be prepared to sacrifice time, effort and often ego. You must make sure that you find the right people who can help you.

Procrastination does not happen if you own your ambition.

Be prepared to learn and to be challenged.

If you hear a voice within you that says that you cannot paint, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves determines the quality of our lives.

Arrogance is to judge one’s self-worth by comparison with others.

Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone.

Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.

Be confident that what you want to say is really of value and as long as you are honest and authentic, people will listen.

Don’t feel you have to fill silence, sometimes pausing for thought can be important.

Try to be yourself, don’t over think how others want or expect you to be. Protecting your personal integrity won’t always lead to people liking you but it should lead to them respecting and remembering you: for the right reasons.

Try to illustrate what you have to say by telling a story; nothing fancy and often from somewhere in your own experience.

Be prepared to be challenged, see it as an opportunity to convince or to learn.

Be authentic; if you don’t believe it, don’t say it.

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.

Be transparent; be truthful even when it is difficult and look for similar people around you.

Just because you fail once does not mean you are going to fail at everything.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is courage to continue that counts.

A third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.

Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.

The real desire to achieve and to be successful is a state of mind not target; it is a lifestyle with no single measurable outcome.

That’s the trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.

All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.

If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?

notes from the book: Simple Thinking by Richard Gerver

A Simple Method Of Acceptance

A lot of discontent and unhappiness we often experience is because we do not accept what is happening right now and we want something else to happen. Although we intellectually know that there is suffering in the world, that things happen  –  death, disease, old age to everything that exists, we cannot accept it when it happens to something we connect with. Can we do something about it when that happens?

Let me try.

Step 1

  • Become aware of your thoughts.
  • Become aware of your feelings.
  • Verbalise or write them down.

Step 2

  • Become aware of the moment. This means sensing in the moment – becoming aware of what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, smelling in that moment.

Step 3

  • Think positively about the situation in a conscious way.

Step 4

  • Let go of any resistance. Mentally accept it as it is.

Let us say you develop a cold. You become aware of the feeling of miserableness that you are feeling and the thought that this day is going to be uncomfortable. Then you focus on the actual sensation of blockedness or the runny nose, feeling the sensations. Look around and see that you can still see. Feel where your body touches the ground. Be aware of any smell in your nose and taste in your mouth and sounds that you can hear. Think positively about the situation- yes, colds do happen often and it goes away after some time. Why should I make it a bad day because of that. It has come and it will go away. Just let go of yourself in the present moment and accept the cold fully. See how you feel now.

As Epictetus said:

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it.