Principles: 10 Imperatives for the Good Life

Why write out a list of principles?

For one thing, it’s my birthday. And, although I’m only in my twenties, I’m feeling a bit reflective.

For another, I’ve just been given a copy of Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio (affiliate link).

According to Dalio (ix),

Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behavior that gets you what you want out of life. They can be aplied again and again in similar situations to help you achieve your goals.

With that in mind, here are 10 principles I’ve developed so far. I’ve followed Dalio’s lead in casting my principles as imperatives. No, I don’t always do an excellent job at these. But they’re worth striving for.

No, this is not an exhaustive list. And no, I don’t always do an excellent job at these. But they’re worth striving for.


1. Go to Church: Word & Sacraments

This principle, and the following one, are purposefully at the top of the list. Why? Because they will place you in a context where your desires, your view of reality, and therefore your principles will be formed in the right direction.

So, go to a church where you can hear the Word of God preached and where you can partake of the Sacraments.

Further Reading:

2. Do the Daily Office: Morning and Evening Prayer

NOTE: I realize that a WHOLE LOT MORE could be said with/underneath these first two “principles.” As an overarching principle, “Become More Like Jesus Christ in All I Think, Feel, Say, and Do,” is quite good. In fact, I’d consider most of the rest of this blog to be relevant in that respect.

However, I’m going to devote the next eight principles to various pragmatic concerns, such as productivity, physical fitness, and financial well-being.

3. Think on Paper: Keep a Journal and To-Do Lists

4. Read More & Take Notes

5. Ask More/Better Questions

6. Sit Less & Move Heavier Objects

7. Eat Less Sugar & More Vegetables

8. Turn off the TV and the Notifications on Your Phone

9. Get/Stay out of Debt

10. Invest a 401K and IRA in Index Funds or Lifecycle Funds


What principles would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

Tools You Should Use

Who doesn’t love great tools?

These are my current (2017) favorite tools, some electronic, some digital. Please note that all Amazon links are affiliate links. Also, please note that these are not ranked in order of importance!

BEST PEN: Zebra F-701 Stainless Steel Ballpoint Retractable Pen

Zebra stainless steel pen photo

This is my “desert island” pen. It may not be the very best pen in the whole wide world, but I’m quite sure it’s the pen at the intersection of durability, versatility, and affordability. If you really want to, you can “hack” the F701 by putting in a better ink cartridge. But I’ve been perfectly happy with the standard Zebra refills.

BEST NOTEBOOK: Leuchtturm1917 Medium Size Hardcover A5 Notebook – Dotted Pages

Leuchtturm 1917 Notebook photoI use this notebook for a personal combination of the Bullet Journal method, Morning Pages journaling, and the 5-Minute Journal. It’s a step up, paper-wise from a Moleskine, yet still affordable – and I love the Medium/A5 size. Currently, I’m on my third one, which is “anthracite gray.” The first two were black, then navy blue. I prefer dotted pages, but they also have ruled and blank page options.

BEST PASSWORD MANAGER: LastPass

Lastpass logo

In case you don’t already have and use a password manager, you should really really get one. But don’t just take my word for it, here’s an informative piece from Wired about why you need a password manager.

I started using LastPass a couple years back, and I haven’t looked back. My wife and I both share a premium account – installed on our internet browsers and phones.

BEST SECOND BRAIN: Evernote

Evernote logo

I use Evernote primarily as my all-in-one digital file-cabinet – my “second brain,” as the company itself calls it. I’ve been paying for a premium subscription for awhile now, but the free version is quite robust and worth checking out. As far as organizing my Evernotes goes, I’m currently using Michael Hyatt’s tag-based system, although I started off just using notebooks and stacks of notebooks.

FAVORITE FITNESS TOOL: CAP Barbell Cast Iron Competition Weight Kettlebell – 35 Lbs.

CAP kettlebell picture

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, one of the best exercises in the entire world is the two-handed kettlebell swing. If you’re short on time, but would still like to improve your strength and overall fitness, I highly recommend starting up a basic kettlebell workout routine. Check out this Art of Manliness article about the kettlebell swing to get started.

BEST TOOL FOR TASK MANAGEMENT: Todoist


Todoist logoAs productivity guru David Allen says, your brain is for having ideas, not storing them! Therefore, in order to keep track of everything I have to get done, I have found an external task management system absolutely indispensable. I’ve tried a TON of different task managers, but Todoist has been my favorite for awhile now.

BEST WATCH: Casio Men’s G-Shock Classic Digital Watch

Casio G-Shock Watch
I prefer having an actual watch on my wrist (and, according to Business Insider, I’m not alone), so that I don’t have to take my phone out of my pocket to check the time. Granted, I don’t have a favorite watch for females. And, granted, there are much nicer, more elaborate, more expensive watches available out there. However, much like my pen choice above, this watch stands at the intersection of functionality, durability, and affordability. If you’re looking for an even cheaper analog option, check out the Casio Men’s MQ24-7B2 (recommended by Kevin Kelly via Cool Tools). 

BEST TOOL FOR PODCASTS: Overcast

Overcast logoI think that – after books – podcasts are one of the best ways out there to learn and stay interesting. Plus, unlike books (and Youtube videos), you can easily listen to a podcast while doing something else, such as washing the dishes or folding laundry. Apple’s native Podcasts app has come a very long way, and is worth checking out. However, my favorite podcast app is currently (the free version of) Overcast. To get all “meta” on you, here’s an excellent podcast episode about podcasting. Check it out if you’re even somewhat confused about what podcasts are.

(If you’re curious, here’s a list of my favorite podcasts.)

BEST POCKET KNIFE: Gordon Drop Point EDC Pocket Knife (Harbor Freight)Harbor Freight pocket knife

Just like the pen and the watch recommended above, this is NOT the nicest knife in the world. However, it is functional, durable, and VERY affordable. Pick one up at/via Harbor Freight Tools.

BEST TOOL FOR LEARNING/MEMORY: Anki (Flashcard Software)

Anki logo

This is the tool I wish I knew about back in high school. Spaced repetition is a key to successful and time-efficient learning. And Anki bakes spaced repetition into flashcard reviews. I started using Anki, on the recommendation of Gabriel Wyner’s Fluent Forever, to learn German for my PhPh.D.rogram. However, the uses of Anki are virtually endless when it comes to learning. Granted, the learning curve is a bit steep, but check out Wyner’s guide to using Anki as a way of getting started.

(Note: as I mention in my list of favorite podcasts, Coffee Break German (and Radio Lingua’s other Coffee Break language courses) are also great language-learning tools!)

Honorable Mentions: Other Tools Worth Trying

I’lll do my best to periodically update this list of recommendations.

Finally, this isn’t a tool, per se, but it IS one of the coolest collections of tool recommendations I know of: Cool Tools. Check the website out, and let me know what you find!