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88 More Truths I’ve Learned About Life

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In the early days of this blog I published what I thought was a throwaway post, entitled “88 Important Truths I’ve Learned About Life”. It was nothing but 88 sweeping aphorisms I had collected as they occurred to me, delivered with a bit of snark. But it was a huge hit and still brings new people to Raptitude.

Today I can’t bear to look at it. It’s just too preachy. But I understand the appeal. It’s fun to throw down an aphorism, and ask yourself if you really believe it. Here’s what I’ve learned (I think) in the seven years since. Also quite preachy.


1. Growth means doing things that are hard for you right now. There’s no other way.

2. The news doesn’t show you how the world is. It shows you whatever will make you watch more news.

3. Metal tools and utensils cost a lot more, but last about twenty times as long as plastic ones.

4. Good listeners are rare. When you find one, keep them in your life. And pay it forward.

5. Nobody sees you the way you see yourself, which should probably come as a relief.

6. Often nobody wants to make decisions for the group. Everyone appreciates the person willing to propose a time or a place.

7. Every generation thinks the one that came before them and the one that came after them are the worst.

8. For whatever reason, everywhere in the world human beings are willing to spend enormous amounts of money and time on alcohol.

9. Almost all casual photos would be improved simply by getting closer. You don’t need to get people’s entire bodies in the frame.

10. You don’t really know someone until you know what they struggle with most.

11. Not long ago, tea, sugar and spices were really hard for ordinary people to get. But they’re still as delicious as they always were. So enjoy!

12. If you spend a week tracking how you actually spend your waking hours, you will probably be shocked.

13. Friendships take work to maintain, and it’s possible the other person is doing all the work.

14. One way to add hours to your week, and months to your life, is to put your phone somewhere beyond arm’s reach.

15. Often, to make a breakthrough with something, you just need to stick with it a little longer than you usually do. Even five or ten minutes.

16. You can shave a decade or two off your working life by understanding compound interest and the long-term value of your purchases.

17. It’s almost impossible to convince someone of something once they see you as being on the “other side”.

18. [Ed. This one needs more research]

19. Often we convince ourselves that we have less freedom than we really do, so that we don’t have to be responsible for doing the right thing.

20. Listening to the blues really does help when you have the blues.

21. I said this last time, but as a reminder: it’s worth retrying foods you didn’t like the first time.

22. We all have unconscious biases, even nasty ones about race, class and sex. Don’t believe anyone who says they don’t have any.

23. We are all thinking and ruminating nearly all day long, which is why we constantly seek activities that can relieve us from it, like music, TV, drinking, sex and death sports.

24. Romantic love might be a pretty recent invention, so don’t get too bent out of shape if your experience doesn’t fit the mold.

25. When you quit smoking you immediately realize how bad you stank all those years.

26. Daily meditation has a way of making solutions to many of your problems suddenly obvious.

27. “Comfort zone” is an annoying term but it sure is useful. It’s the only place to find solutions to your longest-running problems.

28. Everything has more detail to be found, if you take some time to look even closer. Especially plants.

29. The main reason we argue online is because it feels good, but we like to imagine it’s also somehow noble or helpful.

30. “Act the way you want to feel” actually works a lot of the time.

31. One thing nobody regrets is becoming a fit, active person.

32. Our beliefs about right and wrong come from mostly from intuitions and gut feelings, not logic.

33. We evolved to go days without food. Missing a meal shouldn’t be a big deal, but if you skip the odd lunch people will assume you have an eating disorder.

34. New York City is a pretty neat place. Don’t die without visiting, if possible.

35. Pretty much all double albums would have been better as single albums. Except maybe The Wall.

36. Propaganda’s effects can last forever. Two hundred years later, most people still think Marie Antoinette said “Let them eat cake”.

37. It’s really liberating, after trying to look smart for so many years, to start freely admitting when you’re wrong and when you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

38. Every household should have an aloe plant. Don’t wait until you burn yourself to go get one.

39. We’re all going to die, and on the whole that is definitely a good thing. Wouldn’t it be terrible if all of this never ended? It would also get very crowded.

40. John Waters was on to something when he said, “If you go home with someone, and they don’t have any books, don’t fuck them.”

41. Voting is only one of many avenues individuals have for shaping the direction of society, and it’s an extremely low-leverage one.

42. The ability to make good art depends a lot on your willingness to make lots of bad art in between.

43. We tend to think more about negative events than positive ones. Knowing that is helpful, in case you think there’s something wrong with you.

44. A decent definition for self-love is “Doing for yourself what you would want your kids to do for themselves.”

45. Not making your bed in the morning sets the bar kind of low for the rest of the day.

46. Having a defensible opinion, on any topic at all, actually requires a ton of work. Mostly reading.

47. Everything you own has an effect on your psyche. Less stuff makes for a less disturbed mind in general.

48. Bachelors, if you want to class your place up a bit, a few plants goes a long way.

49. We are all atheists, in a sense. Every person denies the existence of either most or all of the gods that have been proposed.

50. The most insightful news source in America is The Onion.

51. Meeting and/or staying with locals completely changes the travel experience.

52. The best and worst thing about life is all the other people. Well, mostly.

53. Becoming exceptional at something is probably just a matter of making #15 your normal way of doing things.

54. Going for a walk almost always alters the mood, at least a little.

55. One quality everyone finds attractive is competence, at anything really. Experts are super sexy.

56. We would probably be more moral creatures if we acknowledged how difficult fairness and compassion actually is for members of our species.

57. Lasting habit changes always involve some kind of identity shift. Running every day stops being a grind only once you begin to feel like a runner.

58. To pass easily through crowded sidewalks, stare just above everyone’s hairline and keep your speed up. They will get out of the way.

59. Not hiding it when you’re wrong commands more respect than always appearing to be right.

60. We are all selfish, to a pretty alarming degree. If you’ve ever bought a cocktail, you bought it instead of eyeglasses or medicine for some poor kid somewhere.

61. Whoever invented the zipper was a goddamn genius.

62. When a party has degenerated into people showing each other their favorite YouTube videos, it’s time to call a cab.

63. Future societies will laugh at us for how we let advertising cover nearly every available public space.

64. Other people, generally, can see solutions to your problems more clearly than you can. (Use this to your advantage.)

65. Fears get stronger whenever you heed them, and weaker whenever you act in spite of them. This is a simple law you can depend on.

66. Most of the difficulty and awkwardness associated with a task is stacked right at the beginning, so it’s over with quickly unless you chicken out really early on.

67. Listening attentively to someone’s problem without trying to solve it is a skill that’s greatly appreciated, and is worth practicing.

68. Humans are too complex for everything in their lives to run smoothly at once; it’s probably normal to be a mess in at least a few areas.

69. Lots of people you know are hiding addictions, and you’d never guess who.

70. There will always be enough suffering in the world to horrify you a million times over, so it may not be worth dwelling on at times when you’re not doing anything about it.

71. There’s a kind of low-brow pleasure we get from being angry and indignant, and very often there’s nothing else we gain from it.

72. Most classic novels are very readable, but we think of them as dry and awful because of the ones forced on us in high school.

73. There is a paradoxical relationship between ease and difficulty; sticking to easy things makes life hard, while doing hard things makes life easy.

74. Posture has a predictable and immediate effect on mood.

75. Goals have to improve your life in the short-term in order for you to keep at it all the way to the long-term rewards.

76. It can be really freeing to see a given present moment as though it’s the beginning of your life. In a sense, it is.

77. People usually like it when you ask them for advice in their areas of expertise. Also, #64 makes this a smart thing to do.

78. How free you feel in day-to-day life depends a lot on your willingness to open up to discomfort when it happens. That can be practiced.

79. There’s no need to eat iceberg lettuce in a world with available romaine, baby spinach, arugula and endive. Branch out!

80. By the time voices are raised, communication has stopped.

81. A few fancy, high-quality grocery purchases are still way cheaper than even a crappy restaurant experience, and there will be leftovers.

82. People that lie to others in your presence would probably lie to you just as easily.

83. We overvalue pithiness because it’s immediately gratifying, and we undervalue nuance because it takes too much work. But you should share this post anyway.

84. Keeping secrets is really hard for almost everyone. The secret-keeper eventually confides in one other person, thinking they won’t do the same thing.

85. We tend to think the person we are is the person we’ve been so far.

86. Self-doubt is hard to deal with but it does keep our standards high. The worst art is made by people who think everything they do is great.

87. We always think that our latest dilemma is the one that will destroy us, but so far none of them have. The sky has fallen a thousand times already.

88. Don’t worry, everybody else is crazy too.

Photo by emma craig


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Anh Nguyen August 9, 2016 at 2:17 am


I love this article. All the points you mentioned came from your personal experience and I can relate to a lot of them. Especially number one on how “growth means doing things that are hard for you right now. There’s no other way”.

Thanks for sharing!


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David Cain August 9, 2016 at 8:56 am

Thanks Anh.

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Anh Nguyen August 10, 2016 at 2:03 am

Welcomed, David. Keep sharing the good stuffs. :)

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Karen Cook August 9, 2016 at 2:31 am

Thanks for making me laugh & think this morning!! Haven’t read part one yet bit I will!
One slight thing….I would urge people to forget about the sugar! Excluding it from my diet was a good decision.
Keep those blogs coming I love reading them!

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David Cain August 9, 2016 at 8:57 am

I’m curious… when people say they exclude sugar from their diet, do they mean they don’t eat anything that contains sugar? Or contains added sugar?

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Karen Cook August 10, 2016 at 5:29 am

I avoid refined sugar whenever possible. I, too, get a wee bit ‘preachy’ about it, because it has made such a positive difference to me. Also the withdrawal symptoms that I experienced when coming off it made me think! Apparently cocaine-addicted mice (poor laboratory mice!) choose sugar-laden water rather than that with cocaine, the urge is so strong!!!

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Pip Ferguson August 9, 2016 at 3:03 am

Another interesting and stimulating post, David – thanks for sharing! Have posted on my Facebook page. (And I agree with Karen about the sugar – increasing scientific evidence that we consume way too much, and it’s linked with cancer growth).

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David Cain August 9, 2016 at 8:58 am

Thanks for passing it along Pip!

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Karen Cook August 10, 2016 at 5:30 am

Thanks Pip!

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Zoe August 9, 2016 at 3:16 am

But I like iceberg lettuce… :-D
Great article! Some really useful advice in there.
And I totally agree about photos… full-body ones are usually not that great (unless you’re trying to achieve something by showing the scale of a building, etc.).

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David Cain August 9, 2016 at 9:00 am

At least throw in some arugula

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Jon Carroll August 9, 2016 at 4:05 am

Great post David! Tho I must say Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness simply would not benefit from being cut down to a single album! ;)

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David Cain August 9, 2016 at 9:09 am

It’s funny you say that because Mellon Collie is the album that started to make me believe that. There are enough strong tracks for an amazing single album, but I remember a lot of filler too. It would interrupt the dawn to dusk / twilight to starlight theme they have though. But I haven’t listened to it for years. I’m going to put it on now :)

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Adam Tauno Williams August 9, 2016 at 5:28 am

“””Every generation thinks the one that came before them and the one that came after them are the worst.”””

Interesting; this one I doubt. I recall my parents admired by grand-parents generation. While I a Gen-X’er view the Boomer generation *very* negatively. At the same time I generally admire Millennials.

Most of these I agree with, but this one stands out as unreliable.

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David Cain August 9, 2016 at 9:13 am

I was kind of joking. The whole thing is really silly. We are clearly supposed to hate our parents’ generation, but I am also seeing a lot of pop-culture derision towards millennials for entitlement issues, etc. But Gen X is kind of wedged between the baby boomers and the millennials, so we don’t fit into the pattern very easily. I’m a late Gen Xer so I have millennial friends a few years younger than me, and they aren’t really a different generation.

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CARLA August 9, 2016 at 6:19 am

Dude! I was having a rough time listing 10 people I would want to spend a day with and you just made my list! LOL Good stuff. Thanks.

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David Cain August 9, 2016 at 9:15 am

Thanks Carla. I’m curious who the other 9 people we’ll be hanging out with are?

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Carla August 9, 2016 at 8:01 pm

Well, you must understand the list includes fictional as well are real…so what do you think about hanging with Gandalf, the Star Trek captains, Mark Dunn, Christi Friesen and well, I suspect the others are people you wouldn’t know, but they would be a wicked fun group! And likely we would listen to Floyd, but not sure if it would be the Wall…that is a bit heavy for this party!

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Debbi August 9, 2016 at 6:26 am

These were generally pretty great but I must say, the last one is my favorite. Of course, I always maintain that excellent mental health is way overrated and more than a little boring!

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David Cain August 9, 2016 at 9:19 am

Heh… I think being crazy isn’t necessarily good, but it’s comforting to know how normal it is.

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Ca August 9, 2016 at 9:24 am

Read this while I sipped my morning coffee, friend! I was hooked from #2, which is why I don’t follow any news sources on social media. The sad fact is, it constantly gets shared, so I’ll see it from friends anyway. But I’ve found I’ve been much happier in the last 2-3 months, since doing this (and getting rid of Facebook). I wish #8 weren’t true, but it is. The same goes for #80. And I want to try #58! Thanks for another great read :)

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Cait Flanders August 9, 2016 at 9:26 am

#89 – If you click “Submit” before reviewing a comment you’re about to leave online, you will not notice the autofill hasn’t actually filled in your name. Your friend, Ca

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David Cain August 10, 2016 at 3:08 pm

I hope you don’t mind if I leave it like that, it’s actually pretty funny

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David Cain August 10, 2016 at 3:07 pm

Thanks Ca!

It’s a pretty prevalent belief that news-watching is really some kind of civic duty, and I’m starting to see how deeply conditioned we are to think that. A free press does serve a social purpose in keeping leaders accountable (a little anyway), but I think it’s important that we all examine why we really watch the news. I think it is mostly for a weird kind of entertainment, and also to stave off feelings that we aren’t doing enough for the injustices in the world. So we watch them on TV and feel bad which relieves some guilt at not actually having to experience most of them. Anyway I’m starting to ramble…

#8 is kind of shocking when we can get an objective view of it, which is hard because it’s such a cultural norm. I am still sorting out my relationship with the sauce.

#58 is great for #34

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Ani Castillo August 9, 2016 at 10:19 am

This is a sweet compilation David!! *_*

Yeah, a li’l preachy haha, but I’m starting to realize that in the past people used to be super preachy and we called those guys leaders!

I loved #42. “The ability to make good art depends a lot on your willingness to make lots of bad art in between”

It’s so true! The more you create, the more chances you’ll have at making something that touches people’s hearts (and well, that’s what I would personally consider as good art! ^_^)

All the best David,

– Ani

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David Cain August 10, 2016 at 3:09 pm

One really influential quote (for me) on the topic of #42 came from Ira Glass:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

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Joseph Ratliff August 9, 2016 at 10:29 am

Great list of aphorisms David.

But about #18: “18. Losing weight really is as simple as reducing the number of calories you eat. Not easy, but very simple.”

Caloric “load” (think “overloading the system”) and calorie “density” (meat has higher density than starches, as one example) both factor into weight loss too.

I found this out the hard way when I lost 77 lbs in 12 months.

Plus, genetics is being found to play a role (pay closer attention to what this post links “to”: https://jaymans.wordpress.com/obesity-facts/

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David Cain August 10, 2016 at 3:15 pm

I wondered if anyone would open up a discussion about this one.

Clearly there are other factors, but I don’t see how you can make or maintain fat tissue without enough calories. I can understand how genetics changes a person’s TDEE relative to another’s, but not how it can change the fact that a below-TDEE deficit is possible to maintain without weight loss.

I will read the article you linked, thank you.

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Cody August 11, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Hi David,

There has been quite a bit of research into calories-in, calories-out dieting and the findings suggest that losing weight is not as cut-and-dried as “just eat fewer calories”. For more on this check out Dr. Jason Fung’s blog: https://intensivedietarymanagement.com/tag/calories-in-calories-out/

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David Cain August 13, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Thanks Cody, a few people have said so. I gather the statement also came off as really judgmental and I didn’t mean it that way so I removed it. And thank you for providing a source.

Caine August 9, 2016 at 10:31 am

I have a problem with #18. “Losing weight really is as simple as reducing the number of calories you eat. Not easy, but very simple.”

There is also a bunch of water retention associated with eating things like salt, carbs, and taking medications.

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David Cain August 10, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Yes, water retention is a factor, you’re right. I don’t think that undermines what I said though. Just as “gaining wealth really is as simple as spending less than you earn” doesn’t become untrue when you include complicating factors like inflation, fluctuating markets, etc.

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Edward August 9, 2016 at 1:34 pm

Fantastic list! All’s spot on for me except for #35 which should have read “London Calling”. …Obviously just a typo. ;-)

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David Cain August 10, 2016 at 3:22 pm

I did say “pretty much”…

I’m surprised nobody has come to the White Album’s defense yet, but yeah I would include it too.

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Barbara August 9, 2016 at 7:04 pm

Lovely jubbely. Thank you.

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David Cain August 10, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Thank you!

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Shannon August 10, 2016 at 12:00 am

#21: I’ve hated olives my entire life (I’m 47) but every few years, something compels me to try them again because they are so beloved by everyone else. And two years ago, my persistence paid off–I discovered castelvetrano olives! It turns out that I like my olives just cured and not brined. Hate the brine! I’ve since turned other olive haters into castelvetrano lovers. So there’s that.

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David Cain August 10, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Well done. I am still trying to like olives, and I have progressed somewhat. I like black or kalamata olives on pizza or nachos. But I am far from being able to eat a green olive by itself without regret. I will try castelvetranos!

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Carol August 12, 2016 at 8:44 am

You are so wise and insightful for a youngster :-)!!! I always get a chuckle from your writing. It would have been very helpful to know these things “back in the day”. Of course, I probably would have disagreed with many of them because I knew everything back then :-)

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David Cain August 13, 2016 at 2:26 pm
Edith August 12, 2016 at 7:09 pm

Number 40 is relative: the person might have mostly electronic books… a lot of them.

In my case, I give away most books I’ve read… For me it is a pity to have a book collecting dust, without anyone to enjoy it again.

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David Cain August 13, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Heh, yes the world has changed a bit since John Waters said that. I’m sure “books” is just a symbol for “evidence of intellectual pursuits of some kind”

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Michael Hockinson August 24, 2016 at 3:42 pm

The news doesn’t show you how the world is. It shows you whatever will make you watch more commercials.

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Harvey Meale September 15, 2016 at 4:03 am

>60. We are all selfish, to a pretty alarming degree. If you’ve ever bought a cocktail, you bought it instead of eyeglasses or medicine for some poor kid somewhere.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this! Cocktails are great. But as humans we are selfish organisms. Psychological egoism is real. I think when you said “we” in the first sentence, you are not exempting yourself from this. I’m glad you didn’t actually suggest we spend more money on poor children than cocktails either!

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Spnce September 23, 2016 at 10:05 pm

“60. We are all selfish, to a pretty alarming degree. If you’ve ever bought a cocktail, you bought it instead of eyeglasses or medicine for some poor kid somewhere.”
Yes indeed. My first time to your site and I can see why it’s so popular…you have a lot of insight, and you express it well.

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