Optimal Human Survival: Six Tips on How Grown Ups Can Control Their Own Destiny

At no point in one’s life do humans bare so little responsibility for their own survival as they do when they are swimming around in their mother’s amniotic fluid (Ron Currie Jr.).  Think about it: newborns need to learn how to digest liquid, take in oxygen and pump out carbon dioxide, dispose of their waste, learn how to sleep, and draw a distinction between night and day.  
I recently witnessed, single handedly, the marvel that is human adaptation when our son Tommaso entered the world on July 19th.  Thankfully, Tommaso took his first gulp of oxygen and liked it (he did it again and then let out a gentile scream – the kind that gets attention but is considerate of others).  Thereafter, Tommaso took survival into his own hands and begin to move to stay warm, tensed his muscles to support his body, and, generally, reacted positively to things he liked (e.g., his mom’s breast) and negatively to items he found offensive (e.g., a nurse’s cold hands) – his way of communicating via behavior (sorry Noam).   
Little Tommaso’s survival skills got me thinking about how many adults do not take their own survival (read happiness/career/love life/financial matters/etc.) into their own hands.  Survival has a slightly different definition for most adults, however it seems, for example, that most adults do not decide what career they end up in, or how much money they’d like to earn, or how fulfilled they’d like to feel.  
Learning how to survive or controlling one’s destiny (literally speaking) may be the number one practical skill set of all time (followed closely by “thinking on your feet” and “social skills“), yet there doesn’t seem to be any available advice on how to, overtly, optimize one’s life or survive with great efficiency.  In turn, here are a few tips to help the non-infant live a highly optimized life (who says you can’t be re-born!):
1. Listen with one part of your brain and forget with the other.  Listening to other people and receiving a top notch education is critical, but the key is to interpret what people are telling you via your own filter.  Lazy people take advice and run with it, smart people process out the crappy part of any piece of advice and keep the gold nuggets.  

2. Risk and failure are not bad things.  You can’t survive optimally without getting lots of things wrong or risking a comfortable situation for a more lucrative end game.

3. Don’t be normal.  This means trying your hardest, for as long as possible, to avoid lusting after “stuff” (car, house, electronics, etc.), getting married, reproducing, and the mass media.

4. Aspire to be stubborn.  Persistence, otherwise known as stubbornness, will keep you going when your competitor quits and when all your friends are telling you to abandon a business idea / innate passion / etc.

5. Listen to your body.  First reactions to an idea or person are often correct (the whole “gut reaction” thing, well, it’s pretty much correct).  Sweaty hands and a quickening of your heart rate may mean you’ve thought of an excellent idea or just made a huge mistake becoming partners with Joe Smith.  
6. Stay scared.  Fear rules in the wild and calm and peaceful animals get eaten first.  Now, you probably don’t have to worry about getting eaten by your neighbor if you fall asleep watching a re-run of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but being highly aware of your career goals, happiness level, competition, etc. can all contribute to controlling your own destiny.  


  1. Hey Vin,
    Did you mention “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for me? Thanks if you did.

  2. Hi Vin,
    Yes, I did mention Curb just for you (after all, you introduced me to Larry David!) . I’ve seen some clips of the latest season on HBO and it looks great! Can’t wait!

  3. I think that “Keep dreaming” should also appear on this list since dreams are the fuel of great successes.

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