There is no plan
The world is too unpredictable to be able to plan out in advance your career or your life. You can make choices for instrumental reasons: the choice is based on the perceived utility for something else down the road. The object of choice is seen as an instrument of a plan. You can make choices for fundamental reasons: the choice is based on the inherent value of the object of the choice. The object of choice is seen as good in and of itself (reminds me of the Meditations on the subject of stoicism that a friend has been talking about). Because things are so unpredictable, instrumental reasons often lead to the wrong choices for the plan anyway. Most successful people, most of the time use fundamental reasons.
My interpretation: using fundamental reasons actually keep your options open and keep you happy at the same time! Instrumental reasons shut down options and likely are not what you actually wanted to do thereby making you less happy.
Think strengths, not weaknesses
Capitalize on what your good at. Don’t focus on what you are bad at.
My interpretation: this seems to align well with the first rule. Focussing on weaknesses is an instrumental reason. You think that by getting better at something you currently suck at you are going to be better at something else, it is just a step in the direction of some planned out goal. Focussing on your strengths is a fundamental reason for doing something. Your strengths are things you already inherently value. They are the things that give you energy.
It’s not about you
“You are here to serve, not to self actualize.” You are doing your best if your actions bring out the best in others.
My interpretation: I read this as something like pay it forward, but that doesn’t seem right. Pay it forward is an instrumental reason, you do it because you think that someone will help you out down the line. The message here is that you need to have the mindset that there is inherent value in serving, at least some of the time if not most the time.
Persistence trumps excellence
Small accomplishments compound. Keep doing them, persistently, and you’ll get ahead of anyone who does a few big accomplishments. “What do musicians and athletes do that others don’t?…They show up. They practice and practice and practice some more.”
My interpretation: I learned at least two valuable things from kendo: “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect” and you won’t improve if you only practice once a week.
Make excellent mistakes
Don’t try to avoid mistakes, you’ll end up being too concerned about being wrong and won’t want to try anything. Successful people make huge mistakes, but they aren’t stupid mistakes (“oops, I forgot to send the mail to tell them this is happening”) they make big mistakes because they are trying something new. Each mistake moves them a little bit closer to excellence. They learn from their mistakes. It is more risky to avoid mistakes than to make mistakes and learn.
My interpretation: screwing up isn’t a problem, in fact it is the best way to learn. Screwing up in avoidable, repeated ways is a problem. Don’t back off. Keep trying. Persistence is better than excellence, and persistence in the face of excellent mistakes will let you mix persistence and excellence.
Leave an imprint
Ask yourself now what your legacy is. Your life isn’t infinite and so you should use your limited time to do something that matters. Apply yourself to something that is larger than yourself.
My interpretation: strive to use your strengths persistently to make excellent mistakes on things that aren’t about you and don’t get tunnel vision on a plan that is out of your control anyway. That will lead to a fulfilling life that you can look back on and say was a good life.