How to grow

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This month Raptitude will turn four years old. Some of you were here right from the first few awkward posts, a time when all of my subscribers could fit in a school bus. But now the regulars alone could fill an NHL arena, along with enough casual readers to form a pretty scary mob in the surrounding parking area.

The numbers are big enough to be abstract to me now, and when I think of Raptitude’s readership I’m usually still thinking of the same few dozen faces (or avatars) that were on that original schoolbus. So I sometimes forget that a good proportion of you are quite new, and we’ve never been properly introduced.

My name is David. I’m a 32 year-old Canadian. I write about creating moment-to-moment quality of life, mostly by reframing how we look at the world and its people.

It has worked for me. Unbelievably well. Every year I reach a new level of confidence and ease. If the Me of 2012 could travel back in time, he would make short work of the problems suffered by the Me of 2011. This is the kind of growth I expect of myself every year now, and I want you to expect that too.

Whether they read this blog or not, everyone is interested in that: more ease, more perspective, more self-dependability – to know how to be less needy, less unstable, less worried.

For people actively interested in personal growth, the existing reading material tends to settle into two slightly overlapping camps. There are the “summon the winner within” people you find in the audience at Tony Robbins events, and the spiritual/new-age people who talk in soft voices about meditating and manifesting things.

People do get lots of mileage out of these camps, but I think the greater proportion of people don’t really want to live in either one. On Raptitude I borrow what I’ve learned from both and pass on what works, but I don’t really like the tone of either one. They just feel too forceful a lot of the time. Most of us don’t want to become practicing Buddhists, or recite affirmations into the mirror every morning, and we don’t believe that’s what happy people do.

For me it’s about cultivating personal perspectives that work internally, for you, better than what you’ve been prescribed by society (or by Tony Robbins, for that matter.) In my experience, the conventional ways of life that most of us inherit from our parents, our religions and our cultural norms make for lives that are many times harder than they have to be, and much less rewarding. I feel like I’m about twenty times better at life than I was ten years ago, but only because I made a point of it. 

People often ask me for my “general philosophy” and my usual answer is that if I had a general philosophy I wouldn’t have written half a million words about it. I think there’s a world of conversation that’s dying to happen, a still-to-be genre of quality-of-life-related writing that’s oceans apart from both traditional self-improvement and stuffy spiritual teachings. In my own self-important way I like to think I’m helping to get that going, finally.

There are readers who tell me they have read everything I have published. I don’t necessarily recommend that, but if you like you can do that here, and if you do, you’ll notice my opinions change over time. I am constantly experimenting, adapting to what works and ditching what doesn’t, and you should too. Your positions change. This is growth.

Even so, over time clear themes emerge. As a writer you find you can talk circles around a topic for hours, only to finally realize it can be mostly reduced to an aphorism or two. If I took four years of writing and distilled down it to a potent spirit, here it is: in a relatively small number of words, how to create a gigantic improvement in your moment-to-moment quality of life over the next year. Click for elaboration.

Get rid of needless possessions and needless commitments. Protect your freedom.

Learn to find the enjoyability of the “in-between” moments, because they make up 98% of your lifeDo one thing at a time and do them on purposeRegularly do things that feel out-of-character.

Cultivate a sense of solidarity with all humans. Regard typicalness as a red flag that you may be settling. Stop blaming others. Don’t limit your compassion to people who cause no harm (because there are none).

Know your addictions.  Agree to let the moment feel like whatever it feels like. Observe the play of desire and attachment in your life.

Now and then, ask yourself often what your mind is up to. Let bad moods come and go and don’t trust what they tell you about the big picture.

Think a lot about what you want and only sparingly about what you don’t want. When bad things happen, go do the next thing.

Regard your mind as an advisor — an intelligent but often frantic and short-sighted one — instead of a boss. Don’t take your thoughts so seriouslyKeep your life clean and your mind will clear up.

Don’t take anyone’s word but your own, when it comes to who you really areNever mistake your self-image for your self. Let yourself become a different person over time.  Be willing to let go of any belief, if something else starts to make more sense to you. Put your personal experience first, and the data second, generally.

Experiment with mindfulness and meditation. To find peace in any moment, let your personal interests dieLive in the first person, not the third person like most people do.

Get rich, but define wealth as the capacity to create quality of life, rather than as money specifically. Learn to focus on the concrete things, and ignore most of the abstract things. Don’t spend your life doing what you don’t love – to love yourself means to work for yourself, not to pleasure yourself.


Be fair and generous to others, but don’t be afraid to think of your own life as the Greatest Story Ever ToldLet things change when they’re ready to change. Let people go when they’re ready to go. When the universe speaks to you, listen.

Pretend this is the first moment of your life.


What else can I read?

If any of this moves you, run with it. Inspiration doesn’t last if you don’t act on it. Dive in by reading more.

As I said, most of the self-improvement material out there veers away from my line of thinking into either self-motivational talk or spiritual pursuits. In a way that isn’t entirely selfish, I want as many people as possible to think about life like I do: be self-reliant, open-minded and observant. and make a point of getting better at being human. I wish there was more on the web I could recommend in this vein. There are only three blogs I read regularly.

Steve Pavlina writes what is probably the most successful self-development blog on the internet. He’s eccentric, nerdy, pragmatic and sometimes judgmental, and turns a lot of people off. He embraces a lot of the conventional self-improvement principles, but he’s candid about what works for him and says exactly what he thinks. No matter what you think of him, some of his stuff is absolute gold. Check out his “best of” in the sidebar.

The second one is Mr Money Mustache. You can classify it a personal finance blog, and on the level of finance alone it will make you rich. MMM’s message is brilliant and simple: getting rich amounts to living on considerably less than you earn, and most of what people deem as necessary expenditures are totally unnecessary and do not contribute to happiness. He believes typical middle-class budget is “an exploding volcano of wastefulness” and he can show you how to become happier while you spend way less, and free yourself from dependence your employer far sooner. He retired at 30. His latest post was the inspiration for this post and is the perfect access point for new readers.

The Altucher Confidential is also an exceptional blog that’s worth reading. James Altucher knows his finance too (a former Wall-Streeter) but today he writes about living life in a world out of balance. I can’t describe what you’ll find on his site. He likes extremes. You’ll see.

Read the people whose ideas and words feel magical to you. For me that’s Ralph Waldo Emerson and Douglas Harding, more than anyone. If you want to read a magazine read The New Yorker or National Geographic. Your world will grow.

I’ve said before that learning about mindfulness is pretty much indispensable if you want to enjoy most of your life’s moments, and the person to read for that is Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Share Raptitude

Except for the first two months of this blog’s life, I’ve never actively promoted it, other than tweeting or Facebooking some of my posts. All this growth has been from readers sharing it. If you like it, please share with people you think would like it. This post would make a good start for the uninitiated. Also, longtime fans, Raptitude is finally on Facebook. Go like it.

Thanks for four great years. You are my kind of people.


 Photo by webtreats

Learn to live in the present

Everyday mindfulness has transformed my life, and has for countless others. You can use it to reduce stress, deal calmly with trouble, and experience joy and peace throughout each day. Making it a habit is easier than you probably think. Learn how.


Elaine March 19, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Totality agreed with John’s comments above about Steve Pavlina!
Followed his blog for years and is early stuff is pure gold, but over the last 18 months have been put off by his posts: namely his new obsession and personal experience with 3somes and from what I can gather, swinging.
I’m all for each to their own and am neither for or against what he does, but I find it irrelevant the depth in which he talks about his partner / sexual preferences and all widely unrelated to his earlier theme of personal development. Recently I find his overall tone of writing has changed from being direct, insightful and humurous, which sat well with me, to, self-righteous and arrogant and I read less and less. Dislike the constant affiliate marketing he pumps out too now :-(
That aside, I love your blog David…there are so many great bite size pieces of wisdom. You are openly self reflective, and your honestly and vulnerability about your challenges and your discoveries are admirable. We are all a “work in progress” and your ability to put your insights and perspective into clear thoughts on a page is a great thought provoking read and assists many of us in our self learning and breakthroughs. Keep up the great work and well done on 4 years of realising your life purpose :-)

David Cain March 20, 2014 at 10:38 am

The tone has changed a lot, yes, and I find it really awkward when he talks about sex. I am all for open relationships and non-prudishness, but I find it really distracting. Still though, he regularly comes out with seriously useful content. He often talks about things I don’t care about, but none of his content is fluff. So I always check out his new posts.

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