I hate the term “life hacks”.
It’s overused, and most things that are considered “life hacks” are simply common-sense or common techniques.
So why this list?
This is a list of the few things that I consider “true life hacks”. Things that have completely changed the paradigm of how I or somebody I personally know, lives or works.
Here are the required criteria:
- They have to be amazing force multipliers. They must really make a difference, open up options and grant us huge amounts of leverage.
- They have to provide real savings in terms of resources, be that time, attention, willpower, energy, money or otherwise.
- They have to be obtainable. That is, they can be acquired by anyone given a base level of opportunity. They cannot be things that you are born with, like height or an inheritance.
True Life Hack 1: Chicken Protein Smoothies
Yes, the first thing on my list of true life hacks are protein smoothies made from blended chicken breast.
My understanding is that they boil the chicken breast, blend it into a fine powder and then mix it with flavouring to make a drinkable smoothie.
And before you say YUCK 🤢, hear me out.
The benefits of chicken protein smoothies
Each bottle is about 500 ml (16 fl oz) and is equivalent to about 300 g (0.6 lbs) of chicken breast and two pieces of fruit.
That’s 1.5 chicken breasts that you would buy from the poultry store — that’s a lot of protein. Almost three scoops of whey worth.
And drinking a 500 ml bottle is much, much faster than trying to chew through 1.5 chicken breasts and two apples.
Chicken protein smoothies are also great for people who are lactose intolerant or don’t like the taste of protein powder.
While they’re ideally suited for people who are into fitness and health, they are still “real food”. Meaning that they can act as an easy substitute for eating meat or other protein sources.
They are especially useful for people in a bulking phase and trying to gain weight.
Before discovering these, I had to blend a crazy one litre concoction of milk, peanut butter, coconut oil and scoops of whey protein to just get enough calories in.
Chicken protein smoothies have ended up saving me:
- Time, as they reduce my food preparation time.
- Money, as they cost about $2.50, which is the same price as whey where I live.
- Willpower, as I don’t have to think about what to eat — I just grab a bottle from the fridge and drink it.
But how does it taste?
That’s the million dollar question.
To me, it tastes like a fruity yoghurt drink.
I’ve recommended it to friends and people locally and all of them have either:
- Loved it, or
- Can at least tolerate it.
Which is better than whey protein powder, which most people won’t touch.
Where can I get chicken protein smoothies?
Unlike whey, these are made fresh.
I buy them from a company here in Thailand called StayLean, and have a set delivered once a week.
I’ve heard there’s a company in Singapore than makes them too. For everywhere else, Google is your friend.
True Life Hack 2: Weightlifting
The second true life hack is weightlifting.
It’s tempting to say “the gym” or “exercise” but they really aren’t the same thing.
I am specifically referring to resistance training with free weights — lifting barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and more.1Bodyweight training is in-between. Most people I know who are into bodyweight training end up adding some sort of extra resistance weights at some point.
There are many variations within resistance training.
Powerlifters focus on squats, deadlifts and bench press.
Olympic lifters focus on the clean and jerk and snatches and supporting movements.
Crossfitters focus on a bit of everything.
Anything that isn’t cardiovascular exercise (“cardio”) but has you lifting weights in the gym counts.2Bodybuilding is also resistance training, but the amount of time required for training makes it not particularly time efficient.
The benefits of weightlifting
Unlike cardio, weightlifting is a two-for-one exercise.
You burn calories whilst doing it.
And you also burn calories afterwards, as it increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR) for up to 48 hours afterwards.3Stavres, J. R., Zeighel, M. P., Bayles, M. P. (2018). Six Weeks of Moderate Functional Resistance Training Increases Basal
Metabolic Rate in Sedentary Adult Women. International Journal of Exercise Science, 11(2), 32-41. https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2051&context=ijes
The health benefits are numerous:
- It strengthens your musculoskeletal system.
- It makes you stronger.
- It hardens your central nervous system.
- It also improves your cardiovascular fitness.
- Your life expectancy goes up.4Reimers, C. D., Knapp, G., & Reimers, A. K. (2012). Does physical activity increase life expectancy? A review of the literature. Journal of aging research, 2012, 243958. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/2439585Chudasama, Y. V., Khunti, K. K., Zaccardi, F., Rowlands, A. V., Yates, T., Gillies, C. L., Davies, M. J., & Dhalwani, N. N. (2019). Physical activity, multimorbidity, and life expectancy: a UK Biobank longitudinal study. BMC medicine, 17(1), 108. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-019-1339-06Brenn T. (2019). Survival to Age 90 in Men: The Tromsø Study 1974-2018. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(11), 2028. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16112028
It also has a ton of other health benefits — I won’t cite you all the studies, but they are all linked here.
In the process of learning to lift free weights, you’ll also dramatically improve your posture:
- You’ll be able to fix rounded shoulders with external rotation.
- You’ll learn how to brace and strengthen your core to lift heavy loads.
- You’ll learn how to stand straight and sit upright.
- You’ll fix your anterior pelvic tilt and not look like you are slouching all day.
Weightlifting also gives you better energy levels.
It’s primarily an anaerobic exercise and over time, you become stronger and fitter. And this translates into more energy being available for other things — like being productive and getting work done.7There’s a reason that energy is the base level of the time management stack.
Weightlifting also makes you look aesthetically better.
This means more muscle tone, less fat, broader shoulders (if you want), six-pack abs and more.8You are not going to get “too big” or “bulky” from weightlifting. People who say this have no idea just how much work goes into building muscle and physique.
This makes you more attractive to everyone, which is obviously great in a romantic context, but also makes all your other social interactions easier because looks act as a social status hack.
Weightlifting is also extremely time efficient.9Especially compared to cardio. See https://www.strongerbyscience.com/avoiding-cardio-could-be-holding-you-back/.
I like to think of it as having both a global and local effect.
There is a global effect where you do a lift, and your body figures out automatically how to burn fat and build muscle across your entire body.
There is also a local effect where you can choose to emphasise certain muscle groups if you want.
What this means is that you can practically spend 1-1.5 hours in the gym, 2-4 times a week and be done with it.
Compared to doing long hours of cardio daily, this is extremely time efficient.
And if it seems like a lot:
- It really isn’t a lot of time compared to the benefits you gain, and
- It’s useful to remember that hours of exercise per week correlates to a longer life expectancy.
Weightlifting also has meditative effects for the mind.
It helps you learn to focus your attention on your body and the present, with what you are doing.
It builds a mind-body connection, and discipline.
It builds your willpower: Every time you have a heavy weight in front of you and ask, “is it possible?”, and then lift it, you add to your willpower capacity.
Weightlifting also makes forming other habits easier.
This is because progress in weightlifting is fairly linear and teaches you the skill of progression and that if you put in the time and concentration, you will be rewarded.
Lastly, weightlifting also provides a time structure to your day and week.
I consider it a core anchor activity and ritual, and something you can always fall back on when life goes off-course.
(For more on this, see Resilient).
What kind of person lifts weights?
I’ve found that people who lift weights consistently have their act together.
It takes a certain type of person to show up at the gym three times a week like clockwork, and lift literal tons of stuff with no complaint. These are not the type of people who make excuses or get lazy.
I have also found that nothing has improved my sleep quality or energy levels more than regularly weightlifting.
And the progress is amazing to see.
You’ll feel it at first. Then you’ll see it. Then others will notice it, which can be extremely validating.
At some point though, you’ll stop caring about what others think or notice and realise that you’re really doing it for you.
And this completely changes your relationship with your body, your health and your energy levels.
Where can I lift weights?
You should start by working out exactly what you are going to do. My go-to resource for this has always been Andy Morgan’s Ripped Body.
Then you need to find a gym nearby that has the equipment you need. Or if you have the space at home, buy your own equipment.
The closer the gym is to you, the better, as that reduces friction in the process of going there.
And then you just need to go, consistently.
True Life Hack 3: FU Money
FU Money stands for F*ck You Money.
It means having enough money or income to never have to work again. It means having enough money to say “f*ck you” to requests or demands from other people.
Most people misunderstand how this works.
It is not simply having a lump of cash and having so much of it that you can never spend it all.
It is having a large enough sum of money invested so that the interest or return provided is enough to cover your cost of living and spending.
For example, $10 million invested at 4% a year comes out to $400,000 a year which is a nice ~$33,000 monthly.
Financial independence is not FU money
Financial independence is not the same thing as FU money.
Financial independence is simply where you are not dependent on active work to cover your cost of living. This can be decidedly modest — no debt, owning your own home (or two) and living an upper-middle class lifestyle.
FU money is a higher level of financial independence.
People with financial independence still look at price tags and live with a certain degree of frugality.
People with FU money have a very different relationship with money, prices and costs. For them, almost any problem can be solved by simply putting money towards it.
The benefits of FU money
As Nassim Nicholas Taleb says, FU Money is antifragile.
You can use it to pay to make problems go away.
Something causes you friction? Pay to make it go away.
Something annoys you? Pay to make it go away.
It may seem convenient to say that, but it is true.
Money makes the people who bring you problems, reconsider.
This is because people imbue money with value, and by association, they conflate people with money with value.
This isn’t objective reality (as money is just paper or 0s and 1s), but it is intersubjective reality.
Just think about how much people want to know about the habits and mindsets of rich people like Bill Gates, Jack Ma and Jeff Bezos — even though many of their habits have nothing to do with their financial success.
Simply having money means people listen to you more and hold you as having higher social value. This means more influence, more power and more authority.
You don’t have to show up at a certain place at a certain time, pretty much ever.
This frees up your time, energy, willpower and attention to do whatever you want.
How do I get FU Money?
There are whole sections of the Internet dedicated to achieving both financial independence and FU money.
I personally like MJ Demarco’s approach in The Millionaire Fastlane.
True Life Hack 4: High-Level Social Skills
Social skills is a broad term that describes the gift of gab or the ability to talk to people.
- An understanding of social hierarchies and social trees.
- The ability to read people and to assess social value.
- The ability to use Sherlock Holmes-style deduction and calibrate your responses based on that.
- The ability to act with all this knowledge and information.
Tom Libelt of Smart Brand Marketing calls it “persuasion”.
It is not the same as just having lots of friends or connections.
Benefits of high-level social skills
Almost everything we do in life has something to do with another human being.
Having high-level social skills means that you will be able to get more of what you want, faster and easier.
High-level social skills give you optionality, abundance, freedom and choice when dealing with other human beings.
This means that you can use less of every resource in whatever you do because you will be able to persuade others to support your cause.
High-level social skills are also great for your inner game.
Being able to navigate the world of people removes insecurity, protects your self-interest and lets you operate independently in the world of people.
What do high-level social skills look like?
I define high-level social skills as being able to “parachute into any city and build your own network of people”.
This means that you can confidently belong anywhere and everywhere, and make it work.
This makes everything in life smoother.
Imagine having no insecurity and no fear of people or things that involve other people.11Which is pretty much everything.
Imagine being able to do business, make new friends, go on dates, negotiate, give speeches, attend parties and events and even undergo general chitchat and small talk with no friction, no fear and no issue.
Imagine people just liking you for no real reason at all.
How can I learn high-level social skills?
You can start here with basic social skills.
True Life Hack 5: Fame and Status
There are two types of fame and status.
The first is contextual fame and status, which is fame and status within a specific social tree or group.
The second is general fame and status.
To be a true life hack, you must have general fame and status.
Contextual fame and status is specific to particular social tree.
For example, a CEO of a company has “fame” and a high status within their company. But put them on the street, and they’re just a normal person.
A DJ at a local nightclub has “fame” and a high status within that nightclub. But when he walks into say the company the above CEO works at, he’s a nobody.
General fame and status is different.
It comes from being in politics, popular culture, or as we mentioned above, from having money.
It can also come from being in specific niches, industries or subcultures that have broad mainstream reach. For example, certain niches within social media sometimes crossover into mainstream media and this grants the influencers in them a degree of general fame and status.
The benefits of fame and status
Like money, people conflate fame and status with value and by association, people who have fame and status have “value”.
This is another way of saying that people believe what Kim Kardashian says simply because she has fame and status.
I believe that this goes back to our tribal nature as human beings and our tendency to follow charismatic leaders.12Grabo, A. E. The evolutionary origins and psychology of charismatic leadership. https://research.vu.nl/ws/portalfiles/portal/58473817/complete+dissertation.pdf
When you have fame and status, like money, people listen to you. This gives you influence, power and authority. And this can be parlayed into money, opportunities and more.
A simple example of this is that when a celebrity gives away their “diet secrets” or “success secrets”, we listen.
This is not because these celebrities are objectively more fit or wealthy, but because they have fame and status.
This is actually a logical fallacy as being good at one thing doesn’t mean you’re good at everything.
Another example would be influencers in subcultures being paid to promote often-unrelated products to their followers. Companies are happy to pay for the endorsement, as they understand that people listen to those with fame and status.
Hating on fame and status
I really want to dislike fame and status as a true life hack, as I believe it to be in direct opposition to having true value, authenticity and soul in the game.
But there is no denying that because of human nature, it works.
If you have an influencer or celebrity friend, hang out with them for a day.
You’ll literally see them:
- Get free stuff.
- Have random people come up to them asking for photos.
- Have all heads turn when they enter a room.
- Have everyone be super, super nice to them simply because of who they are.
Where do I get fame and status?
I’m not the right person to ask about this 😉.
What To Do Next
Some of these true life hacks can be acquired right away. Some will take time.
But all of them will completely change the dynamics of how you live your life.
- Bodyweight training is in-between. Most people I know who are into bodyweight training end up adding some sort of extra resistance weights at some point.
- Bodybuilding is also resistance training, but the amount of time required for training makes it not particularly time efficient.
- Stavres, J. R., Zeighel, M. P., Bayles, M. P. (2018). Six Weeks of Moderate Functional Resistance Training Increases Basal
Metabolic Rate in Sedentary Adult Women. International Journal of Exercise Science, 11(2), 32-41. https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2051&context=ijes
- Reimers, C. D., Knapp, G., & Reimers, A. K. (2012). Does physical activity increase life expectancy? A review of the literature. Journal of aging research, 2012, 243958. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/243958
- Chudasama, Y. V., Khunti, K. K., Zaccardi, F., Rowlands, A. V., Yates, T., Gillies, C. L., Davies, M. J., & Dhalwani, N. N. (2019). Physical activity, multimorbidity, and life expectancy: a UK Biobank longitudinal study. BMC medicine, 17(1), 108. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-019-1339-0
- Brenn T. (2019). Survival to Age 90 in Men: The Tromsø Study 1974-2018. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(11), 2028. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16112028
- There’s a reason that energy is the base level of the time management stack.
- You are not going to get “too big” or “bulky” from weightlifting. People who say this have no idea just how much work goes into building muscle and physique.
- Especially compared to cardio. See https://www.strongerbyscience.com/avoiding-cardio-could-be-holding-you-back/.
- See Naval for more on this.
- Which is pretty much everything.
- Grabo, A. E. The evolutionary origins and psychology of charismatic leadership. https://research.vu.nl/ws/portalfiles/portal/58473817/complete+dissertation.pdf