Michael He

February 15, 2022

Michael's Life Manual

After taking a long walk, I decided to write down some principles I live by. They are in no particular order.

Proactive serendipity is my approach to life. Proactive means we can choose and stay open-minded. Serendipity means to believe in goodness and accept the outcomes even if they don't fit our image.

Have a bias for action. If I can do something in a few minutes, do it now. If I hesitate on things that take little time, I won't be decisive on things that take a lot of deliberation. Act fast is not as risky as it seems, because I can stop quickly.

Optimism and courage are difficult to maintain, so protect them at all cost. It is easy to doubt. Self-doubt is especially harmful because it provides a circular logic to how everything seems to work.

Be broadly optimistic and personally pessimistic. The former keeps me grounded on a positive trajectory. The latter reminds me that progress does not happen when I sit on a sofa all day. We must be pragmatic, but we must also have hope.

Build from the ground up. There needs to be a balance between practice and knowledge. I have more knowledge than practical experience due to schooling. This fact reminds me to have  humility and respect for everyone around me. I learn just as much from my colleagues in a restaurant as my professors. Credentials do not define one's potential.

Copper + tin = bronze and 1+1 > 2. The combination of things can be greater than the sum of individual parts. Embracing the duality of life is necessary. For example, one should be good at something specific, but it would be even better if this person can think broadly. The result will be unique and valuable that way. George Marshall is a great role model in that regard, both as a general and a statesman.

Bring energy, positivity, and kindness to work. Radiate energy because it's infectious. Negativity spreads quickly, which means positivity must be cultivated at all times. Being kind is the default setting to life and I will not change the default setting. I do this because if I can't inspire someone, chances are I am uninspired, which will demotivate others.

Joy comes from creation and empowerment. I feel great when I finish an essay or when I help a friend with writing. Maker or manager can both be fulfilling work, because they tackle two basic needs: the need to create and the need to collaborate.   

Work with my energy and creativity, not against. These forces come in waves and I cannot bend them to my will, so alignment matters. Even if temporary progress isn't at 100%, sustaining such efforts over time will produce very good results in the end.

Live authentically. This means I have trust in people. Being sincere helps. And being upfront with expectations and intentions will resolve many unnecessary frustrations.

Serve others. We are capable of giving way more than what we receive. There is nothing to lose by giving more, as the well will overflow with fresh spring.

My happiness comes from peace. Peace with others. Peace with myself. Ultimately, peace with God.

Think long-term. The best timespan is infinity, but for practical purposes 40 years will do. Focus on the things that will not change. Know that we overestimate the near term and always underestimate the long term.

Learn like a sponge by going all-in and absorbing as much as possible. At the same time, let my interests naturally collide with what I do and what I need to do.

Curiosity can be practiced. Being open-minded means there is always something interesting, no matter how boring things may appear.

Go deep and go wide simultaneously. It is possible if you are deliberate about it. Think about a Pokemon attribution graph. I don't want to be a chisel (super specialized) nor a small disc (only well-rounded). I want to be a sea star with some specialties and plenty of everything else.

Spread out learning over the long-term. While knowledge, skills, and experience accumulate upwards, the efforts required to obtain them are constantly depreciated and spread thinly over time. This means learning is always worthwhile.

Learning is more than reading. Anything that leads to an answer (correct for the time being) is learning. Talking to people is learning. Traveling is learning. Meditation can also be learning. Even playing with dogs can be a learning moment.

Grit only matters if you are in the right direction. Speed does not matter. Velocity matters. Make sure there is alignment in terms of values, expectations, etc.

Understand the insider-outsider dichotomy. Insiders have the contexts and can engage in the discourse. But an outsider perspective may be just as valuable, especially in avoiding the mistakes of the crowd. It is very cool to be an insider and an outsider at the same time. For example, I am an insider-outsider when it comes to China.

Swing a pitch that is guaranteed a home-run. Sometimes an opportunity may look too good to be true, but it exists. Go for it when the rare moment comes. 

Written communication has the same pro and con - asynchronous. You can write in a direct manner and make use of resources. That makes the written format wonderful. But if you do not include relevant contexts and do not consider the reader's perspective, then it confuses and even upsets people.

The key to verbal communication is aligning intentions and emotions. From Listen Like You Mean It, I learned about the importance of just paying attention, losing my inside voice, and being genuine with the other person. I am a newbie to this, so there is only more improvement for me!

Everyone prioritizes differently. I start with the bare minimums, such as essential habits. Then I look at what I need to do now and what I need to do for the future. I need to balance these two, keeping in mind that the latter deserves more weight (since I usually overestimate the importance of the near term). Review these decisions and repeat. 

Display warmth. Smile at people. Compliment others sincerely. Listen well. Give support in someone's most important moments, happy or heavy. And remember, small gestures (in one's perspective) may not be small in someone else's.

Most importantly, take care of all the little moments. Big moments are made of small moments. This logic applies to many things in life - work, relationships, emotions, etc.