“Every game has principles that successful players master to achieve winning results. So does life.”
UP is designed around 50 life principles.
Grow your ability to grow. Think recursive self-development. Grow exponentially where you can, linearly everywhere else. Embrace cumulative advantage.
Very broadly speaking, aim to maximize the number of your well-being adjusted life years (WALYs). It’s one of the most important metrics for most people.
Strive to understand reality as it is, not as you want it to be. You will get much further in life if you use reality as your north star. Update your beliefs often.
Human beings are complex adaptive systems made up of many interacting parts. Adjusting one part may not reliably cause a change in another part.
It’s often helpful to measure what’s meaningful to you and track your progress over time. Don’t guess whether a program, tool or course worked or not.
To effectively grow, plan a self-change experiment with a clear hypothesis. Run the experiment, learn from it, and repeat the cycle until something works.
Change is hard. If you’re not compassionate with yourself, you’ll make the process even harder. So be kind to yourself. You deserve it and it’s the pragmatic thing to do.
It’s helpful to begin from the broad evolutionary perspective that humans are, in essence, hairless apes. It makes it easier to understand why we do what we do.
Develop a full taxonomy of your life and upgrade every area you choose. Depending on how you see the world, there may be ~42 foundational areas you could improve.
You are not just “you”. At any given time you have several psychological subagents that are cooperating or fighting with each other. Design for all of your subagents.
“You” are a synthesis of your biological substrate (your body and mind) and your non-biological substrate (e.g., computer, phone, clothes, brand, etc.).
“You” are a composite of your past, present, and future selves. Due to buggy temporal discounting, you reliably forget about your other temporal selves.
To think better, build a digital exocortex (external brain) that collects what you know and helps you get you what you want. It is the digital version of “you”.
First determine your terminal and instrumental values. Everything you do in life stems from what you consider valuable. Deeply introspect, research, and clarify.
Life is a series of bets. Generally speaking, if you bet on lottery tickets, you’ll lose. If you bet on low-cost index funds, you’ll win. Generally at least consider expected utility.
Think through all the costs and benefits of key decisions. Try to quantify each side of the equation. If the benefits outweigh the costs, it may be worth doing.
Return on Investment
Everything you do has a return on investment. Try to think like a venture capitalist trying to maximize return on investment of a portfolio of life investments.
Focus on what matters most first (i.e., usually your highest expected value work). Simple to understand, but hard to do on a day-to-day to decade-to-decade level.
Two brains are better than one. Five are better than two. The more computational power you have, the more strategic your decisions will likely be.
Think as a physicist might: from as foundational of a level as possible. Be careful with assumptions and heuristics. Think more slow than fast.
At some point the marginal cost of an action you take will often exceed the marginal benefit. Think on the margin so you make smarter trade-off decisions.
The world is more grayscale than black or white. Learning how to think in probabilities (X is Y% likely to happen) lets you navigate reality far more effectively.
Build a quantitative model to intelligently allocate your resources to acquire what you value most. You can’t easily do this math or remember the conclusions in your head.
Always keep in mind your counterfactuals–what would have happened if you did or didn’t do something. Was it the seminar that helped you succeed or just you?
Value of Information
How much would you pay to know something before making a decision? If that amount is more than the cost of doing the research, you may want to do the research.
Wherever possible, default to the scientific literature on what works in changing lives and what doesn’t. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are the gold standard.
You don’t know how to optimally upgrade yourself any more than you know what “optimal”, “upgrade”, and “yourself” really mean. Expect to be wrong and change your mind often.
Don’t let systemic forces you’re mostly unaware of shape the majority of your life outcomes. “Live deliberately.” -Henry David Thoreau
Work to enhance the percentage of your discretionary resources that you allocate on a moment-to-moment basis toward achieving your highest values.
Take a lifelong frame. Strategically allocate your ~700,000 hours and thousands, millions or billions in lifetime earnings and other assets into what you value most.
Plan in sufficient detail until you can accurately predict a reasonable probability of success. “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
You’re a function of your environment. Your home, workplace, vehicle, city, and social dynamics all profoundly influence you. Focus on them to upgrade yourself.
Figure out what actually motivates you. Maybe reward yourself when you achieve your goals or automatically donate to an organization you hate if you don’t.
If there’s a way to use a technology to advance your goals, do that first. Mindfully integrate as much as possible with the right technologies for you.
Deliberately and systematically try to achieve great things for yourself and the world. Work hard to leave a legacy that would make your descendants proud.
Make bets on yourself by predicting your plausible future outcomes. Then regularly update these predictions as you execute your plans and learn from reality.
Every great entrepreneur, investor, scientist, engineer, celebrity, and athlete had a team. If you can, build a team 100% dedicated to your goals. Don’t go at life alone.
Four hands are better than two. Ten are better than four. Raw hours, intelligently distributed to the right tasks at the right time in the right way feels like magic.
Normally people set goals, halfheartedly pursue them, and then forget about them. Instead, you should either (1) succeed or (2) pick better goals. Never forget.
Hold yourself to the highest standards of integrity. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you fail to do it, quickly apologize and fix it. Take full ownership.
Achieving great things requires consistent effort over many years. Strive to be extremely gritty as you work toward your long-term goals.
You have to diligently practice mental, physical, and other skills. Especially the parts you’re bad at. Your practice needs to be hard to progress efficiently.
In general, aim to move fast when executing. Speed means more experiments, more insights, and more success. Eliminate bottlenecks or points of friction.
If possible, distribute your workload so that people who can do X at less opportunity cost do X and not Y. Trade responsibilities. Collectively, you all win.
Be curious about yourself, others, and the world. Explore mindfully and persistently. You will never know everything that’s useful to know, but you can try.
You can only learn so much on your own. With a team you have more brainpower scanning the world to discover new and better ways to help you achieve your goals.
Determine how you best learn and remember, then customize the strategies, tactics, and tools in your knowledge acquisition system around your personal preferences.
Just in Time Learning
Learning everything you need to know to optimally upgrade yourself is daunting. Instead of learning it all upfront, in general learn what you need to know when you need it.
Use chunking, spaced repetition, rapid testing, and other techniques to quickly learn and remember the concepts most relevant to your growth.
A surprisingly large portion of what you believe to be true is false. Unlearn whatever you can notice inside your head that’s unsubstantiated. Ask others to help.
UP is also designed around 9 business principles.
UP Intervention Principles
We co-create an UP with a client. It’s a collaboration from beginning to end. We’re always deeply honored to be a part of someone’s life through an UP.
Each UP is a new experimental intervention. We make testable predictions, take baseline and follow-up measurements, and confirm or disconfirm our hypotheses.
UP is entirely customized based on your values, goals, personality, and unique circumstances. No two UPs are exactly alike. You’re not generic and neither is UP.
UP maximizes both your direct (e.g., fitness, relationships, happiness) and system-level (e.g., agency, focus, strategy) growth. Everything is interconnected.
We’re always improving–we will never be done. We regularly incorporate the latest peer-reviewed research, DIY experiments, and macrotrends into an UP.
It’s your life, not anyone else’s. NDAs, restricted file access, and de-identifying data are among a few of the many precautions we take to ensure your privacy.