Aim low 2 get high

What you’re getting into:

10 minutes of actionable advice for improved health, strength, posture, intelligence, stamina, focus, finances etc. – in short a blueprint for effortless life enhancement.

Squat, Beans, Omega3, Bacteria, Cold Feet, Variation, Processes vs. Goals, Meditation/Mindfulness, Use Your Left, Read “Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman” and install Evernote.

Using the left (weak) arm


Don’t set your ambitions too high

Around 15 years ago, just as I began my hedge fund career, my little brother (today, not yet 30 years old, a national strongman finalist, an 800lbs deadlifter, and soon [well…] a Quantum physics PhD) experienced a sort of panic attack when browsing his math book in the beginning of the semester.

The realization that he didn’t know it all and couldn’t learn it all right away made him feel he could never learn it.

At the same time I had no goals or ambition whatsoever, apart from putting in less work than before. And we all know where that got me, one step at a time.

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Hence, if you aim for the moon, the risk is it’ll stay just a dream. You won’t even hit the tree tops. Best guess is you’ll simply stay in bed, overwhelmed by your own ambitions.

Instead aim low, ridiculously low. But with a twist, with a process in mind, and a growth mindset.

Apparently you can reach the moon without more than a shy glance at it now and then, instead focusing your energy on enhancing those stone tools of yours – aiming ‘ridiculously’ low.

Feel free to have moonshot visions in the back of your mind. But aim for nothing more than getting out of bed, perhaps take a quick look out the window and check for trees, maybe even walk up to it… and perhaps grab the lowest branch and just feel it…

You know where that story ends.

Don’t be Tim Ferriss

On the one hand Tim is just like us. On the other he is an unattainable demi-god. Don’t model your goals on guys like Peter Thiel, Tim Ferriss, Steve Jobs and Jack Welch. Sure, everybody can emulate them, but very few actually will.

That kind of ambition is more likely than anything else to set you up for failure, discouragement and unhappiness.

If you try to learn parkour, French, big wave surfing, MMA etc. at master level in a week, you’ll most likely end up physically hurt or broken down psychologically. But just trying those things, aiming to get a little better every day, and you’ll exercise brain and body, and maybe finding a rewarding new hobby for life.


Aim low too, like I do

About a year ago, I wrote my first few blog posts on a precursor website called Always Be Bruce Wayne. On August 11, 2014, I presented one of my mottos “Aim Low”, which focused mainly on health and fitness, but also mentioned many other areas of life, such as  finance, work, gym, studying and reading.

This post is part two: Aim Low 2, Beginner’s Guide, a.k.a. “Just One More”

There will be a more thorough part three in the future, that delves deeper into various areas and expands the number and complexity of easy self improvement advice: Aim Low, Master Class

In fact, that 1-2-3 structure in itself demonstrates the principle of aiming low:

I had a very vague vision from the beginning about writing thoroughly on the topic but chose to ignore it. Instead, I said to myself: “Write just one short article advocating the three easiest and most rewarding mobility exercises”. I aimed low, then wrote just one more (the current one; Aim Low 2), and after that realized I should do just one more (again), some time in the future.

Trying not to get too wordy here, Let’s jump right into the advice:


The principle of aiming low

Whatever you do, make it easy to start. If you don’t start you won’t get anywhere. Start with the simplest step possible, then take another one. In a while, the momentum becomes self-sustaining, and getting going doesn’t take any effort at all. Then you have a habit of doing as well as of improving.

I’ve seen suggestions of imprinting habits by repeating them 21 days in a row. That’s probably close enough, but I would still focus on day 1, and then day 2…


Indulgence cum discipline

In short, this is the Aim Low, Just One More “formula”:

  • Do it now – whatever it is, do not put it off, not even for a minute. Now. Since you are aiming really low anyway you can start at a second’s notice
  • Just start – going running? Put your shoes on. Aim for a walk around the block. Perhaps another block. Perhaps just a few jogging steps. perhaps run just one block.
  • Just one (arbitrary [small] unit of your choice, in the case of the Aim Low blog post series a unit is a blog post, but it could just as well have been a single paragraph, or just a sentence or a headline) – aim for performing just one unit; one push up, one block, one kilometer/mile, one sentence, one page, one article.
  • Just one more – right when you finish your “just one” unit, make the thought “Ahhh, done. No more” your cue for “Just one more” or maybe just the half or quarter, since you took the trouble to start. It’s the sunk cost fallacy turned into a strength. Further, the “one more” process nulls the anchor effect (since you don’t have an absolute benchmark, just a process of adding one more arbitrary unit).
  • Celebrate every ‘one’. Computer games are built around levels, smaller and bigger levels. Sometimes there are more difficult “bosses” to beat after decimating his easier minions. The bosses are both proof of your skill and help honing it before going to the next level. Life in general and projects in particular are no fun if they are too long and there are no intermediate “bosses”. Celebrate completing a “one”; vanquishing an intermediate game “boss”.
  • Enjoy the process, focus on it, make sure it’s a good process that you like and can be proud of. Good or bad luck can lead to any outcome, independent of the quality of the process, but a good process will always be a good process. And a tautology is always true (straight out of Retard’s Playbook). If the endgame is all that matters, if you shoot exclusively for the moon, then failure is both likely and will be complete. If the process, the investing, the growing.
  • End up where you are heading. The real trick though is to steer in the right long term direction, or you might end up where you are heading. However, only glance at the ultimate goal to not get overwhelmed. Every one should be a reward that makes you want to go for (just) one more.

On moonshots: Don’t (aim to) become so good they can’t ignore you. For one, it’s near impossible for most. Second, you don’t need them anyway if you become that good. A pragmatic strategy must build on leveraging others without having to be nr 1. Be different and good enough, rather than the best. Most important of all, live for you, not for them – in all aspects of life.



Beginner’s Guide For Aiming Low

  • Hygiene: Wash less. Trust your bacteria. Don’t kill them with solvents, leaving room for new strains. I haven’t used anything but water on my face for 9 months. Apart from the obvious health benefits it saves time too.
  • Sleep: Sleep with your feet sticking out from the bed (cold feet signal time to sleep), lower temperature in the bed room. Meditate for just one minute (or add one more), instead of checking your phone, computer or TV 30 minutes before bedtime. Sleep as dark as possible (aluminum curtains/blinds), neutral spine (harder bed, head aligned with body, i.e. not turned to the side relative the body)
  • Workouts: Variation. Vary the number of sets and rep ranges between workouts and weeks. No extra effort or time required, just vary those two parameters if nothing else.
  • Cardio: Small increments, low threshold. Start by putting your shoes on. That’s enough, but my guess is you’ll want to at least walk around the block once laced up anyway. Always tell yourself, this is the last unit (that fools your brain to release the body’s reserve powers). Then do one more. However, I personally don’t do cardio.
  • Mobility: Hips & Shoulders. Squat, Couch stretch and Morpheus if nothing else. Do it between sets in the gym, when watching TV or waiting for the bus. Zero time consumption. Almost zero effort. Adds years of quality life. And don’t sit in chairs all the time. Stand at work. Sit on the floor at home. For the master class, this one needs some serious elaboration (in the meantime you can check out this old post I wrote a year ago).
  • Brain training: I throw tennis balls for my dog using my left arm during our walks, thoroughly thinking through how to copy the movement of my right arm. No extra effort, no time consumed. Try balancing on one leg with your eyes closed.
  • Variation: use a different store for grocery shopping, take a different path to work
  • Skills: start things, do them wholeheartedly for a while, then quit if boring. Go to Khan Academy. Watch some videos when idle. Start doing some math or programming. Download DuoLingo and try French or Portuguese. Do the exercises whenever you usually would check Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. Make “social media” your cue for “but first, just one minute of skill improvement”
  • Writing: just start, just get to the computer and write one sentence, one headline, then another, then one more, then start filling out the blanks in between. First just write simple words, then whole sentences, then refine them into paragraphs, then make sure they are in a readable order.
  • Meditation: the easiest meditation in the world is lying on your back, with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing, identifying and feeling every part of the breathing apparatus. In through the nose, out through the mouth. If a thought shows up. Acknowledge it is there and then focus on the breathing again. Nose. Mouth. Nose. Mouth. Move up the meditation ladder, by going through every part of the body starting with just one toe. Can you feel it, can you imagine where it is? Make micro movements, moving a finger just a millimeter or two and notice if your left feels different from your right. Try that instead of being online the last 30 minutes before going to sleep.
  • Mindfulness: Just look/listen/smell/touch anything really thoroughly. What is the texture, what components does that smell have, how does that bird or insect move through the air, what instruments are there in that song
  • Inspiration, knowledge: read a book/article (Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman) or listen to a podcast (TED Radio Hour) by somebody obviously smart or accomplished. Think, really think about the message and its implications. Does it affect you? Should it? How can you apply the same concepts? 
  • Motivation: Don’t be a little bitch. Real people don’t need motivation
  • Happiness: Focus on processes rather than goals. Celebrate periodically. Life should be like a challenging computer game. It can be a little tough sometimes, you fall and pick yourself up, but every now and then you win over an intermediary boss or get to the next level. Celebrate those wins instead of only thinking about some ultimate endgame. Ask yourself “What’s wrong with right now?” and forget about some moonshot dreams. 
  • Productivity: Use a commonplace like Evernote. Write down ideas and ToDos in a structured manner right when they occur. That frees up capacity to move on without risk of losing the idea
  • Studying: Don’t rush it. Understanding takes time. One step at a time. First one, then one more. Construct each level of understanding carefully or you won’t have anything stable to build on later
  • Teaching: Same as studying. No rush. Make it easy by taking very small steps but requiring full understanding
  • Food: Drink omega3 oil and eat beans and leafy greens every day. Everything will improve (incl. less inflammation, speedier recovery from exercise, illness and injury). Also, try fasting every now and then. Personally, I fast for 16 hours every day, and typically work out during the 16th hour. It saves time, prevents inflammation and cancer, and makes use of the body’s positive response to convexity. For the master class, the food advice section will need to be at least as long as the master class mobility advice.
  • Alcohol:

  • Sex, pick-ups, relationships: I have no shortcuts, no hacks, no tricks for these, but you could try boosting your testosterone by “power posing” a few minutes when walking the dog, or waiting in line, for the lift or other idle moments
  • Finance: Patience. That’s all. No greed, no fear, no know-it-all advice, just Study, Wait, Pounce
  • Health: Don’t sit. Don’t stand completely still. Apply Convexity in all aspects of life, i.e. explore moderate extremes; the “corners” of life
  • Convexity: Eat/Fast, Contrast Showers, Ice Bath/Sauna, Focus/Relax. Even Drunk/Hangover/Dehydrated/Recovery. The body and brain respond really well to moderate extremes, or “convexity”.

bonus 1: If you aim low, you expect little, and have both a higher likelihood of achieving your goals and attaining happiness

bonus 2: if you aim low, with a focus on growth rather than an endgame, you are more likely to start, and to continue, and maybe actually progress to the very top, while enjoying every step of the way and avoiding feeling empty when finally ‘there’.

Just one more…


Just do one.

Then one more.

To really sum it up: Squat, Beans, Omega3, Bacteria, Cold Feet, Variation, Processes vs. Goals, Meditation/Mindfulness, Use Your Left, Read “Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman” and install Evernote.

P.S. I just found out that Self Improvement Guru James Clear wrote something similar today in Habit Creep

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19 Replies to “Aim low 2 get high”

  1. Evernote + GTD (David Allen) really helped me clear my brain out and open up avenues for practicing mindfulness. When you have it all written down somewhere and organized where you can find it, it helps your inner monologue shut up, helps your meditating, and helps you find your mindfulnees.

    It also helps break your “shoot for the moon” tasks down into bite size chunks (separating feasible “next actions” from “reference” material)

    Intermittent fasting has been eye opening for me as well, three-year practitioner.

  2. I’ve been trying to use evernote consistently sevearal times now, somehow it gets unstructured when the note amount piles up. Could you possible do a write up of how ou use and organize your evernote? And maybe with focus on the training and investing sides?

    1. Evernote is a great collection system but you need a way to organize it. I highly, highly recommend applying the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology using tags. Read David Allen’s book to get familiar otherwise google for a few synopses.

    2. Keep it simple: I just use notebooks, sub categories and tags.

      Whenever I get an idea, I stop, write a note, choose book/sub-book and add at least one tag.

      It could be Health/Workouts/Deadlift

      Most of my notes arw about Blogging, Books, Retard’s Notebooks/Playboon or Blog Posts. Tags range from Investing, Psychology and Health to Philosophy and Trivia

  3. Really liked this article, lot’s of actionable advice. The alcohol inspo cracked me up. :D

    Also, that’s a wicked set of credentials your brother has. He’d kick ass on online dating sites!

    One thing: “Motivation: Don’t be a little bitch. Real people don’t need motivation”
    Sure you haven’t confused motivation with inspiration? I’ve always thought that motivated people don’t need inspiration, they do the work anyway (like, hitting the gym for the aspiring athlete, writing for the aspiring writer, etc.).

    Oh, and by the way, I now have three books on my read ASAP list: 1. Getting Things Done, 2. Surely you’re joking…, 3. Margin of Safety. Just gotta find a slot for reading in my daily routine now that I’m on vacation and don’t commute… I just read studies and review articles about bodybuilding. :/

    1. Thanks!

      I should add that my little brother is a seasoned gamer too (including a history of hats, pocket lint, black nail polish etc.) so he’s a hard hitter IRL too :)

      I actually do mean motivation, but I should have clarified I meant as in “Personal Trainer External Motivation“, i.e. needing someone else to motivate you. In my book, looking around for inspiration is a good thing, whereas looking to others to get motivated is being a second hander (in Ayn Rand’s terminology). On the other hand, what do I know? English is hardly my first language.

      Feynman is a wicked source of inspiration. He is a world class everything: radio repair boy, physicist, bongo drummer, safe cracker, girl gamer… and on and on. He simply lived his life with any regard for others’ opinions.

  4. i really like this mikael. There’s almost a kind of humility in aiming low, making it psychologically super easy to start, and then doing a little better each round. I don’t why but i’m thinking of the analogy to compound growth. There’s a cascade effect to aiming for just one more

  5. What would you say about consistency?

    I’ve found – by far – consistency is the key to progress. The more you do something (even if it’s small as you rightly recommend), if you’re consistent, it will pay off massively.

    1. Consistency is a given, unless you win the lottery

      “Just one” is a ‘hack’ to get started
      “Just one more” is a hack for consistency

      Both are hacks for avoiding being overwhelmed by big and daunting endeavors

    2. Ha, looks like we think alike.
      Probably came to the same conclusions after similar experiences.

      I definitely agree about your view on consistency.

  6. Hej Karl-Mikael.
    Jag tragglar med engelskan, men jag får ändå någon slags förståelse av det du skriver.
    Det här måste vara ett av dina bästa alster. När du vill belöna dig själv, ta dig tid att på youtube söka upp någon film med Jim Rohne. Men det kanske du redan gjort.

    1. Tack för det, och för tipset om Rohn. Jag har tittat litegrann på honom.

      Om du tycker att det är jobbigt att läsa engelskan, gissa då hur det är skriva den :)

  7. I actually have been doing the same thing for almost 6 months now regarding focussing on life aspects. After some research I found out the following things:
    – Health
    – Mission
    – Money
    – Social & Status

    It sounds simple to divide life in 4 aspects but it does work really well for me. I schedule my whole week to improve on those aspects and the results are amazing. You stop wasting time and you actually learn new stuff!

    For example:
    Health => Physical Health (Physique, Cardiovascular, Looks (Skin, Haircut, basic Hygiene, Clothes) & Mental Health (Learn a new skill, learn a new topic, read books, improve the brain)

    Mission => Finding the best strategy to achieve your mission in life. If it’s “I want to be rich” you focus all your time on becoming rich. If it’s “I want to have the biggest insurance company in X Country” you focus on doing that.

    Money => Basic money management. I follow this routine by WSP which covers up a lot.

    Social & Status:
    Social is just a way of finding quality friends and a potential wife / girlfriend if you want to. Don’t become social awkward and practise your game by going out / dating atleast once a week.

    You receive status naturally after you accomplished all of the stuff before.

    After I accumulated those subjects I order them into my week schedule:
    Monday – Friday: Physical Health (Lifting + Looks) // Mission
    Saturday: Mission // Physical Health (Cardiovascular + looks) // Mental Health
    Sunday: Mental Health + some to do’s and preparing for the rest of the week

    Maybe you can start a post about this Mikael?

  8. Thanks for the article.

    Whilst I like the idea, if most people aim low – they’ll end up doing nothing but going to expensive clubs and living a fruitless life.

    Its is just better to not care about the overall outcome. Completely change your mind set.

    Find what your talented at. And then shoot as high as possible and don’t care if you reach it or not.

    Devoid of all emotional attachment to results but forever reaching.

    Almost living like Atlas.

  9. Thanks for the article.

    Whilst I like the idea, if most people aim low – they’ll end up doing nothing but going to expensive clubs and living a fruitless life.

    Its is just better to not care about the overall outcome. Completely change your mind set.

    Find what your talented at. And then shoot as high as possible and don’t care if you reach it or not.

    Devoid of all emotional attachment to results but forever reaching.

    Almost living like Atlas.

  10. Les Brown said “Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss, but because they aim too low and hit,” but I’m sure he meant the same kind of maniacs he is. Common mortals face overwhelment and discouragment instead.

    I like your advice. I experienced incremental progress in the last three years. I use ‘just one more’ in my workouts. This way I improved from 40 to 153 pushups or 14 to 45 chinups.

    BTW, my whole latest post is about starting now. Great minds thinks alike ;)

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