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The Art Of Focus: Official Book Summary By The Author Dan Koe

The Art Of Focus is a practical philosophy to find meaning, reinvent yourself, and create your ideal future.

I’m the author, Dan Koe, and I’ll be writing my own summarized version of this book before others can. That way I can provide the correct context for the chapters.

I will try to cover the high-level principles and advice, but there is a reason I wrote the book. Few things can be left out. I would encourage you to grab the book here if you are interested in the full teachings.

If you’d like, you can also download the PDF of ePub version of this summary here.

I would recommend using Readwise Reader for a better mobile experience.

It’s easiest on your desktop. Create an account with Reader, download the ePub above, and drag it into Reader. You can also add send it to your Kindle email or read it on your default book reader on your phone.

Read time: 30-40 minutes

Table Of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Principles
  3. The 3 Pillars
  4. The Universe
  5. The Self
  6. The Game
  7. The Lens
  8. The Formula
  9. The Shift
  10. The New Rich
  11. The Skill Stack
  12. The Project
  13. The Vessel

I – Introduction

The book begins by illustrating the state of the modern world.

Wake up. Hit snooze 4 times. Stare at your phone. Roll out of bed. Make coffee. Sit in traffic. Eight hours of unfulfilling work. Sit in traffic . . . again. Argue with your “significant” other. Walk the pet. Watch TV. Pass out. Repeat.

Humanity is conditioned to follow a default path in life that is set out by society. The 99% of people that do what they’re told, question nothing, and pass down what they know lead to a population that can’t think for themselves.

This leads to a dull, mechanical, and mindless life.

In my childhood, I made the observation that if everyone does the same thing, they will get the same results, and it’s not hard to see that most people aren’t happy with those results.

Few people set and even fewer people stick to their own goals. Yet that is the only way to evolve. A goal implies a problem and that problem is what allows you to develop your skillset and mindset. It is what leads to a more complex identity that can find meaning and progress in life.

This “default path” is pronounced in our times. This is the main problem that you must overcome.

There is an abundance of information, opportunities, and convenience. We will label most of these – except for the ones you filter with critical thought – as distractions. Distractions lead you further away from who you are and who you want to become.

The solution to a mediocre life is focus.

Humans can process 10–50 bits of information per second with their conscious attention. The what, how, and why behind that information we choose to process will determine our quality of life. That is, what we hold in our attention, how we interpret that information, and why we gave it our attention in the first place is of utmost importance.

We can consider the approximate 125 billion bits of information you process through focus in your lifetime as your potential.

With a large chunk of this dedicated to grooming, errands, and other base responsibilities, we must care deeply about where we direct our focus, as it will determine the outcome of our lives.

Throughout the book, all I ask is that you:

  • Read with a radically open mind. Do not label or judge immediately, but seek to understand what I am saying through direct experience. This may take days, years, or decades.
  • Question, challenge, and build with the ideas. The ideas in this book will shape the outcome of your life, just like any other idea you come across. I hope that you use them, test them, iterate on them, and make them better so that you can contribute to humanity.
  • Do not take what I say as law. I am one perspective out of infinite. None of what I say is absolute truth. It served my life in certain situations, and may in yours, but it may not resonate at all.

With that, let’s dig into the meat of the book.

II – The Principles

Principles are timeless, tactics are with the times.

That doesn’t mean you should ignore tactics, but know they are temporary in the results they provide across any domain of life.

The Art Of Focus is written with 27 principles in mind. I will list them in a rapid-fire fashion here.

1) The supreme law of the Universe in entropy. Nothing is permanent from emotions to ideas to your health to the systems that the education system relies on to secure your future.

2) Systems thinking – or understanding the goal, process, and problem of any crevice of reality – is how you rig situations in your favor.

3) Psychic entropy – or disorder in the mind – means that we must create and maintain order in our lives through self-generated goals, a path to achieve them, and problems to focus on right now. So we don’t get consumed by distractions.

4) The structure of the information we focus our attention on – or the content in our consciousness – determines our quality of life. But information is in-formation. It is ever-changing. Impermanent. What you focus on must adapt and change on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis.

5) Zooming out to see the big picture of a situation allows you to see negative situations for what they are… not that serious.

6) Self-experimentation is the only way to solve your problems for good, make novel discoveries in your life, and gain true experience.

7) Your mind is an information-processing machine. We imitate the environment around us to survive. Intelligent imitation is how you leverage the benefits of “fitting in” while not becoming a mindless slave to the systems of society.

8) Closed-mindedness closes you off to discoveries, insights, and truths that otherwise wouldn’t be found. Radical open-mindedness allows you to expand as an individual and collect the perspective necessary to succeed.

9) Observation and questioning are how you learn to navigate difficult situations with wisdom and grace.

10) There is a distinction between judgment and discernment. Judgment leads to closed-mindedness, but discernment allows you to pull from other’s experiences in a way that helps you make wise decisions for your own development.

11) The cause of most people’s suffering is the expectations people have compared to the reality of a situation. The present moment isn’t supposed to be anything other than what it’s being.

12) When you practice radical acceptance, you begin to see situations for what they are. There is nothing you can think that will change the situation.

13) One can know a lot but understand very little. Knowledge is constructed upward while understanding is discovered inward.

14) The only way to make novel discoveries is to explore the unknown. Reality exploration must become a daily practice. You must puncture the default path you’ve been conditioned to live.

15) The world needs more holistic synthesizers. Those who explore reality and connect the dots between multiple domains rather than getting stuck in one pocket and basing their entire identity around that.

16) The modern world favors productivity but neglects creativity. This leads to robotic and efficient machines that are no longer human. Create the efficient systems that your mind loves, but don’t hesitate to evolve beyond them and discover the next problem that must be solved.

17) The mind makes sense of the world through storytelling. Life unfolds in chapters and phases. It is an unfolding of problems, calls to adventure, curiosity, exploration of the unknown, struggle, insight, transformation, solution, and climax. Flow with them all.

18) Success cannot exist without failure. Failure is a reference point that reveals a problem from which you generate a goal to discover a lesson.

19) Iteration and persistence is better than complacency and consistency.

20) Reality is not black and white, but the extremes get the most attention. The magic is found in the grey area that can only be found by questioning everything.

21) Our perspective determines the positive or negative interpretation of situations. The truth seeker must hunt for kernels of truth to cultivate a more holistic perspective that allows for more positive interpretations.

22) You don’t get rid of the ego, you develop it to the point of being at one with reality.

23) Every problem you encounter in life demands an increase in your level of mind, openness of your perspective, or complexity of self.

24) Humans survive on the mental plane of existence. We survive the idea that is our identity and everything that allows that identity to maintain its form.

25) Mastery sets you apart in a world that can’t see beyond the miserable surface.

26) Tactical stress is a strategy to throw yourself into the unknown and see what you are capable of. It forces education, skill acquisition, and expansion of perspective.

27) If you need something from another, it is nearly impossible to act with authenticity. Selfishness must be a priority for those who have not developed themselves to the point of independence.

III – The 3 Pillars

From my exploration, experience, and reflection there are 3 pillars to the good life: focus, energy, and experience.

The ability to focus your attention on a meaningful goal, holding that in the back of your mind as a distraction repellent, knowing exactly how to achieve it through prior experience, and refocusing on the choice in front of you is a superpower.

1 – Focus

Focus is a muscle that can be trained. Just like you can condition your body with physical training, you can condition your mind with mental training.

Focus has a frame that we call perspective or worldview. This is conditioned by the information you process throughout your life. Your perspective restricts what you can perceive and interpret in any situation.

Perspective is constructed with the goals you plan to achieve, paths you know to achieve them, and problems that must be identified to achieve them. Note: if you do not know what goals you are pursuing, you are pursuing the ones society assigned to you.

Your focus will be limited to the aspects of reality that your perspective allows. Unless you create goals that launch you into the unknown, a problem that you consider a normal part of life won’t reveal itself as a problem. Because of that, you will have nothing to learn, discover, or act on in any meaningful fashion. This is how you train your focus. By setting and pursuing interest-based goals that allow your mind to become aware of new information that leads to the evolution of who you are.

This stresses the importance of radical open-mindedness. If you are in a constant state of closed-mindedness, stress, and narrow focus an opportunity to change your life may pass you by. And you’ll justify your inability by blaming anything or anyone but yourself.

With time, your newly trained mind will gain the ability to filter signal from noise, and your focus will be biased toward the information that brings prosperity to your life.

2 – Energy

Specific goals demand a specific amount of mental energy to actualize.

When you are locked into the default path, you are spending mental energy towards the goals that society assigned to you. This makes it difficult to invest in the goals you truly want to achieve.

Entropy, or nature’s tax, is the measure of disorder in a system and the driving force of evolution. It shows that everything falls apart with time unless an effort is made to reverse entropy. Energy is required to maintain order in a system.

A system has a purpose, a path for achieving that purpose, and problems to invest energy in along the way. Society has had years to construct systems for the attention of the masses. If you don’t want to live an average life, time must be dedicated to both creating and maintaining systems in all areas of your life.

It is necessary that you create a hierarchy of goals across the domains of health, wealth, relationships, and happiness and invest mental energy into them often, if not daily. If you don’t, you will only continue to focus on the default path and end up like everyone else. That isn’t pretty.

3 – Experience

The essence of experience, life, and science is trial and error. You cannot take ideas, opinions, or advice as law without the filter of direct experience. Even if that advice is my own.

Experience is gained by identifying problems in your life, solving them, and making your process more efficient by evolving the systems your mind operates on.

With ample experience, the feedback loop of focus and energy tightens. Your results in life compound because what you filter from the information you interpret is more conducive to meaningful action.

IV – The Universe

Struggle is a Universal principle. It is silly to think that it isn’t supposed to be a part of your life. But that is what we do. We expect life to be a certain way, when it isn’t supposed to be anything other than what it’s being.

The Universe is the identity of reality.

I choose the word “Universe” with a capital U instead of cultural labels like “God,” “Brahman,” or “Teotl” because one, they all point to the same thing, and two, because people get overly emotional about the one they identify with. They disagree on a conceptual level but agree on an experiential level.

To make sense of it no matter your beliefs, The Universe is everything. The word is a concept that points to an experience. You have experienced it before, but you may not label it as that because your conditioning has forced you into a narrow perspective that can’t integrate the truths of a belief system you think disagree with when it isn’t disagreement, it’s misunderstanding. This is coming from a former atheist and heavy skeptic. Get out of your head. No amount of words can prove what allows words to exist.

The Universe is divided into infinite creative parts called ideas. Everything, or every idea, is connected and layered to allow you to make sense of the world.

You don’t have a sense of purpose because you are disconnected from the ideas that allow you to see that purpose. You have not explored reality to the point of making sense of – or creating – your place in the world.

These ideas are impermanent and ever-flowing. The Uni-verse, or one song, can be seen as a harmony unfolding before your eyes. There are highs, lows, problems, solutions, rising actions, falling actions, climaxes, and resolutions. These patterns reflect across all of life. Especially the stories and games that form the structure of most situations, but few people zoom out to observe this structure.

In a practical sense, humans experience suffering when they cannot see the full story or game. They isolate one situation with their focus and hold it in their mind like a static image. Reality is moving forward while you are trapped in the past.

When we harness the creative ability of our minds to view life from above, we can discover, collect, and harness profound insights that bring us peace and progress below.

Your life feels meaningless because you are not grounded in the present moment. This is not about organized religion or a belief system. This is about tapping into the highest perspective there is to become more creative than you ever have.

If creativity is the key to becoming irreplaceable, and your creativity depends on the openness or expansion of your mind, understanding the Universe as natural law will put you ahead of 99% of people. As above, so below.

V – The Self

You are being attracted to your highest version, and the depth of your core can sense it. The external call to evolve requires you to chisel inward beneath the mental constructs that have been layered through your conditioning. Your internal state must become one with the ever-changing external state.

Humans are pattern recognition and learning machines. Since we were born, we absorb ideas like a sponge and adopt groups of ideas, or ideologies, as law. This narrows our mind and limits what we perceive as important.

Society gets to us early, because most people are mindless, and the friends, parents, and teachers that condition our minds had theirs conditioned by their friends, parents, and teachers. Few people have a self that is a conscious personal creation through critical thinking, self-generated goals, and forging their own path.

At a young age, we transcend the need for physical survival. We don’t have to worry about it as much. This is where something more dangerous comes into play: conceptual survival or surviving the idea of who you are.

This is easily noticeable across religion, politics, and niche communities like coffee drinkers. If you are conditioned into a religious belief system, you will feel threatened when someone challenges those beliefs. Like a mouse in the binds of a snake, you will lash out and attempt to reproduce the ideas in your head by telling them they are wrong.

  • Republicans and Democrats are in a war of opposing ideas they are attached to. They feel physically threatened when someone challenges their beliefs.
  • If your favorite sports team loses, or somebody says they’re a bad team, how do you feel? Is your survival actually at stake? Or do you not see how silly you are being over a fabricated idea?
  • When you gain weight, do you stress about the physical weight on your body? Or do you stress that the idea of your identity as a healthy individual will die?

You are surviving and reproducing your identity through words and actions in every situation. If you did not create yourself, you are furthering the spread of mindlessness, evil, and destruction without even knowing it. And you probably don’t even care.

If we want to create an identity that works less, earns more, enjoys life, and has its ideas ripple through the Universe to create heaven, it will be painful.

Think of your “self” as an intellectual structure. A house but not a home. When you go to remodel a house, you don’t rip the foundation out and watch it fall. You make small and strategic changes as you become aware of problems that ruin the aesthetic and function of the house.

To change who you are, you must solve problems in alignment with the goals you create, not the ones that are assigned to you.

That’s how you live with purpose.

Start superficial so you can stop living in a narrow-minded state of stress. Fix your health, fix your money problems, fix your relationships, and then dive into the depths of your ever-evolving purpose.

Most people don’t “find their purpose” because they don’t see the purpose staring them in the face. You must solve the burning problems that are preventing your mind from expanding beyond surface-level living.

You do not have one purpose.

You move from lesser to greater purposes with time, effort, and evolution of who you are.

VI – The Game

Life is like a video game.

I enjoy making the connection between life and the MMORPG World Of Warcraft that I spent a bit too much time playing as a teen.

In the game, you are prompted with a series of choices and tutorials.

  • You choose your race
  • You choose your class
  • You choose your appearance
  • You are launched into your relative starting zone
  • You are taught the fundamentals, rules, and mechanics of the game
  • You practice, level up a few times, and begin your journey as the main character
  • You unlock skills, traits, profession options, dungeons for specific loot, and the abilities to join a guild and travel faster with flight

All of these choices determine the opportunities available to you and whether you will enjoy playing the game or not. You may not like playing a support role, but you may love playing a tank and leading the group.

In real life, we can make the choice to start our game over at any point.

We can change who we are, what we pursue, and stack the resources that allow us to achieve that reality – like skills, a network, and our environment.

In a video game, there are NPCs, or Non-Player Characters.

These are people who are programmed to simply exist in the game. They have zero conscious thought. You can interact with them, but they stay the same for the entirety of the game. They never level up.

We learn and learn and learn from our parents, teachers, and friends, who learned from their parents, teachers, and friends, who were influenced by their life path, culture, and society. Schools, governments, and religious institutions rank the highest in authority and are often the first sources of information you are exposed to when seeking an answer to solve your problems. To be good in school, society, and religion, you must wash your mind with the teachings of school, society, and religion. A social fabric that relies solely on itself to make sense. Groundless, but necessary. A tool, not a master.

Through social conditioning, most people remain NPCs playing the game they were programmed to play.

From a macro perspective, this “metagame” is society.

From a micro perspective, everything is a mind game.

Every situation has a series of goals, problems, and paths in between that every individual perceives according to their identity or perspective.

If you can mold your mind to see a situation for what it is, a game, by creating your own goal, constructing a path to get there, and deciphering the most advantageous actions you can take, even mundane situations can become enjoyable.

Games are enjoyable because they focus the mind and eliminate distractions that can replicate until you reach a state of boredom or anxiety.

Games present a descending series of goals each presenting a certain level of challenge.

If your skill doesn’t match the challenge that the game presents, you’re in for a bad time. If your skill is high and the challenge low, you will get bored. If your skill is low and the challenge is high, you will get anxious. When the challenge is just above your skill level, but you have absolute confidence in your ability to execute, you tap into what is arguably the most enjoyable point in the human experience (that is accessible without drugs, herbs, or other external compounds, of course).

To create enjoyment in your life, you must create macro and micro games.

The macro game of your life is your vision as the goal, life’s work as the path, and micro games as the way to level up along the way.

Micro games are everyday situations. You must approach every situation with an open mind, create your own goal, and attempt to win the games that are conducive to your vision. Everything else is a distraction. Do not play those games. And if you do, learn from them fast.

VII – The Lens

You are a perspective vessel in a subjective reality. You have the ability to shift that perspective beyond a narrow identity to view situations from a higher, more holistic perspective that encapsulates the background, foreground, and detail of the situation.

Perspective is like a DSLR camera.

The camera itself has its limits due to how it is programmed.

You can attach different lenses to the camera to capture a situation in a way that influences how the image is perceived based on your intention with the shot.

In the real world, your “lenses” are ideologies or perspectives like religious beliefs, diet guidelines, business models, and relationship dynamics. Most people have one lens stuck to their camera for life. They will never see the big picture and get at the truth. Your job is to be like a shapeshifter. Study multiple perspectives and collect the lenses that allow you to see the world from a multitude of perspectives. This is how you stop reacting so much and take the actions that are best for your future.

The field of view of the camera is your field of awareness.

When you zoom in and focus on one thing, the background blurs. This creates focus in your practical life and eliminates distractions.

But staying in this narrow focus limits your creativity. At times, you must zoom out to gather truths, patterns, and creative resources. Then, you can zoom back in to apply them to your practical life.

You, at this very moment in time, are a manifestation of your past mental, physical, financial, and spiritual choices. Who you want to become is a manifestation of the choices you make at this moment, and the next, until it all comes to an end.

To make better decisions, you can’t go through life as a mindless robot.

You must pause, gain perspective, perceive the situation from a place of non-reaction, and make the best choice that actualizes your ideal future.

If the good life is created by a series of high-quality decisions, and high-quality decisions only come from improvement after low-quality decisions, then it is in your best interest to fail hard and often with a smile on your face.

Given the same amount of time, a person who makes 100 decisions regardless of how they feel will make exponentially more progress than the person who makes 1 decision because they are a slave to their thoughts.

The default state of consciousness is chaos.

Unless your mind is engaged with a thought, task, or stimulus it will wander off in a negative direction. Anxiety or boredom. When we allow randomness into our lives, negativity increases in potential.

For every good thought, there are 100 negative thoughts if you do not have the purpose, path, or priority in alignment with your ideal future to ground your attention.

I can fantasize about making a lot of money, but if I don’t have clarity, my mind will wander to stressful bills, work, student loans, and those thoughts will splinter into more until you are drowning in overwhelm.

The path out is the path of mastery.

The utter dedication to creating the best life for yourself through self-education, skill acquisition, and daily practice.

The closed-minded quick-fix attitude toward life is the greatest trap of our times, and it runs much deeper than the average person believes. Which is ironic, because the reason they think they aren’t a victim of closed-mindedness is closed-mindedness in itself.

Most people close their minds at the first hint of difficulty.

Masters embrace difficulty because they’ve experienced the pattern it presents: The Perception Threshold or “runner’s high.”

When you stick through the increasing difficulty of a situation, eventually you break through to a state of enjoyment. This occurs in the macro and micro.

You don’t need a quick fix to learn to walk, speak, or brew your favorite coffee. Those came from necessity and interest even though they are as difficult as learning any other skill.

Since you don’t treat your ideal future as a necessity or interest, situations become more difficult than they are. Don’t fight with it, flow with it.

VIII – The Formula

Most people stop learning after graduation.

This is dangerous. You get trapped completing repetitive tasks. Life stays the same. You get bored. The cure is to learn, build, and discover your way into an interesting life.

It is impossible to change in the known.

The same routines. The same job. The same physical, mental, and digital environments. The same identity. The same perspective.

If you feel lost, the solution is counterintuitive.

Throw yourself into the unknown and become even more lost. Move locations. Read new books. Acquire new skills to change careers or build your own business.

Force yourself into a place where you can gain clarity and interest. Then, discover your way out.

If you aren’t interested in anything, it’s because you aren’t in the unknown. You don’t have a chance at finding your interests.

In order to do this well, you need:

  • An anti-vision and vision to create the frame of your perspective.
  • A purpose to provide a lens to perceive situations and identify problems.
  • A path to bring clarity to your education, skill acquisition, and building.
  • A priority to focus on every single day and ground your attention.

All of these create a mind that is protected from distractions and expands with each level you reach.

The Anti-Vision & Vision

First, become brutally aware of 2 things: (1) What you don’t want. (2) Where you will end up if you keep doing what you’ve been doing. Observe the masses and see where mindless action leads. It’s not pretty.

It’s easier to know what you don’t want – from reflection and experience – than it is to know what you want. You can understand what you don’t want to provide insight into what you do want.

This is an iterative process.

What you think you want now can change in a year, month, or week. But you will never realize that without making mistakes. Mistakes are your compass toward a better life.

To create your anti-vision and vision, start with these questions:

  • What does an unfulfilling day look like to you?
  • What does your ideal day look like?
  • What kind of person would you avoid as a significant other?
  • What is your ideal version of a significant other?
  • How do you not want to look, feel, and act?
  • How do you want to look, feel, and act?
  • How much money is too little to sustain your lifestyle? Why is it too little?
  • What won’t you be able to do with that money?
  • What environment would you hate living in? Why?
  • What is your ideal environment?

Get specific with these.

Write these down in a journal or notebook and add to them as inspiration strikes.

Purpose, Path, Priority

Your purpose is the most pressing problem in your life right now.

The one you’ve been putting off solving.

Your life’s purpose is the big problem you want to solve in the world, but most people don’t have the personal, professional, or social development to pursue that. Purpose evolves from superficial to metaphysical and you cannot skip steps.

Before you go off to solve big problems in the world, you must solve the big problems in your life.

Health, wealth, and relationships are where your burning problems exist. Fix them. That alone will open up room for curiosity, creativity, and consciousness because your mind is not plagued with the stress of survival.

Your path is a hierarchy of goals that evolves with time in alignment with your evolving purpose.

There are skills, education, and knowledge you must acquire to reach a new level of mind. This is a never-ending path. The path of mastery.

Deconstruct each domain of your life – health, wealth, and relationships – into a path to uncover the small, priority actions you must take to create a better life. You don’t have to focus on them all at once, but you will need to improve them all eventually. Wealth and relationships can only improve as much as your health and vice versa.

Your priority will involve learning or building for a dedicated time block every day. This is discussed in more depth in The Project chapter.

Along your journey, let curiosity be your guide into the icebergs of opportunity that life presents. Curiosity is the fuel along your path. As you are pushing into the unknown, novel information will grab your attention. These can be your best friend or worst enemy.

There are 4 paths you can take to pursue your curiosity further.

  1. Appreciation – appreciate the ideas, people, and opportunities that you encounter. You don’t have to judge or project. Appreciate them for what they are.
  2. Understanding – you can seek to understand the opportunities deeper. This requires immersing yourself in books, content, and information relevant to that area.
  3. Mastery – Once you understand something, you can then choose to master it. When you feel the pull to go deeper, don’t suppress it.
  4. Monetization – When you go all in on a select few areas, you can pair those skills and interests with business principles to create a living out of it.

Dive into the unknown by pursuing your vision-aligned hierarchy of goals. Educate yourself to gain clarity, execute the smallest priority task, and keep an open mind to discover new potentials for your life.

IX – The Shift

We are living through what seems to be a second Golden Age. The formal education system is being challenged by independent educators, journalists, experts, and artists that sought to remove the cap from their salary and physical reach. The banking system is being challenged by decentralized currency programmers. The government is being challenged by remote work and the desire for multi-nation citizenship to pay less taxes.

When I was a child, I felt alone. I felt like I couldn’t relate to my peers. They all obeyed their parents, teachers, and conformed to their friends without questioning whether or not it was the right decision. They went to school, got a job, and from that point forward you never heard anything interesting from them again.

Formal education has its place, but people are losing trust in its ability to secure their future. It’s all too common for people to invest 4-12 years and tens of thousands of dollars after 12 prior years of public schooling to be left with close to nothing but a piece of paper.

For those who want fulfilling work and an open schedule, a job isn’t going to give it to you. I realized this after:

  • Spending 5 years at University
  • Having 2 years left to complete my degree
  • Taking out $20,000 in loans even when I had a “full ride” scholarship
  • Knowing I wanted to create my own path – getting a job was the bane of my existence
  • Discovering my love for web development after taking an introductory course out of curiosity
  • Learning the entire course curriculum through self-education in less than a month
  • Using my self-study to get a high-paying tech job after my first interview (after multiple business failures and accepting that I had to get a job to survive)

The reality of formal education slapped me in the face.

If I could learn more useful skills in 6 months of self-education than I could in 5 years of formal education, why hadn’t I done that earlier?

If I could get a better higher-paying job than most of the population through my own studies, that would eventually transfer over into a hyper-profitable business, why did I waste so much time in college?

This introduces the importance of deep knowledge.

Curiosity is the path to doing the things you want to do. Curiosity is what makes you, you, and that is a necessity heading into the future of automated work. If you learn the same thing as everyone else to be trained into the select few jobs that are left, you can be replaced by almost anyone. The solution is deep knowledge.

I like to think of deep knowledge as a “zip file” for the mind.

With the formal education system nearing its end, as all things do, I’m convinced that the future of schooling will be done online, with creators as teachers, and each student can join the “school” that aligns the most with their interests, values, and preferred method of learning. One school system wouldn’t dominate their childhood and early adulthood.

Students would evolve from creator to creator according to the deep knowledge they provide in their courses, mentorships, and content as decentralized schools.

Deep knowledge is information that gradually raises the level of mind of the student. It helps them solve a sequence of problems toward a meaningful hierarchy of goals.

The future of work is being created right before our eyes.

You have the ability to create your own career through the acquisition and distribution of deep knowledge. Because the future demands that we earn with our mind, not our time.

You must solve your own problems, from superficial to metaphysical, to increase the value you have to offer to the world.

The internet is one big community. Your ancestors were entrepreneurs within their own communities. Everyone fulfilled a role that they were best suited for.

Entrepreneurship is modern survival and the internet is your hunting ground. You hunt for deep knowledge by pursuing your curiosity. Dopamine is your compass, and you will need to break free of your drip-fed dopamine sedation of quick pleasures for this to make sense.

X – The New Rich

Nobody said they wanted to work forty-plus hours a week, numb their mind with mindless entertainment, and put off their dreams just to wake up one day wondering where the time went. Yet that’s what everyone does.

The word “work” creates a cascade of stressful thoughts and emotions about what people have to do tomorrow, and the next day, forever until their life ends.

People don’t realize that work is a necessary part of life. It brings contrast to rest. Everyone wants to spend the majority of their life sipping coconuts on the beach, but when they have free time on their hands, they are arguably the most miserable. They don’t realize that work brings order to the mind. The concept of a “life’s work” doesn’t cross the minds of the mindless masses.

Your life’s work is an inherent part of your vision for the future. It is how you spread the impact of the value you develop over time to others and, with the power of the internet, it has never been so feasible.

You must create space for your life’s work through intentional lifestyle design. If you don’t take the time, it will be taken from you.

In a world where 80-hour workweeks are encouraged, high-pressure environments are abundant, and little time is given for rest and recovery, you must fight back.

Four-hour workdays, singular focus, and meaningful work are becoming the norm in small pockets of the internet, and for good reason. Ancient Romans and Greeks, Steve Jobs, Charles Darwin, and an ever-growing list of visionaries, strategists, and innovators attribute their success to surprisingly low work times accompanied by an abundance of restful activities like long walks.

Most people see successful creatives and assume they work longer than the average employee. This is false. Most of the world’s most impactful creatives worked for an amount of time that would make your jaw drop, because they understood that focus is finite and creativity demands a lack of narrow focus on work. Rest opens your focus to allow your mind to register new ideas and solutions.

To start your lifestyle design, follow this process:

  • Pull out a notebook
  • Write down exactly what you are doing and why you do it at every minute of the day
  • Write down exactly how you feel in the morning, afternoon, and night
  • Prioritize, remove, and restructure your day in a way that allows you to feel better and have more time – this requires honesty with yourself
  • Create a weeklong system to reverse entropy in your daily routine
  • Plan out your morning routine, focused work routine, other tasks and meetings, and your nightly routine
  • Over the next week, go back to your notebook and begin iterating on things that don’t work in your system

To ensure maximum mental output, creativity, and life enjoyment there are 3 things to consider: how you fill your mind, how you empty your mind, and how you use your mind.

It is up to you to create a daily system with time and practice, but you should incorporate these 3 areas throughout the activities in your day.

  • Fill your mind – you need education, ideas, and novel resources you can apply toward your goals. This leads to intrinsic motivation.
  • Empty your mind – you don’t want to be trapped in a chaotic bubble of thoughts and useful ideas. That’s exactly how you make zero progress. Write things down.
  • Use your mind – you need a vessel to focus your efforts. With your ideas and the clarity to execute, build your future.

We understand the importance of filling our minds with creative firepower and emptying our minds to allow space for creative emergence. Now we need to learn how to focus that creativity into our work.

4 hours of focused work is better than 8 hours of distracted work.

When I was a kid, I heard about The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. For some reason, the notion of a “4-Hour Work Day” stuck in my head throughout my young adulthood.

This alone changed the direction of my life.

  • I perceived anything more than 4 hours of work a day as a problem
  • I didn’t label the lifestyle I wanted to achieve as impossible
  • This forced my mind to work on a creative solution whenever I worked longer than 4 hours
  • I was able to notice opportunities in business that allowed me to work 2 hours a day while everyone else worked 8-12 hour days doing the same thing

For most people, the 4-hour workday isn’t a possibility right now. Not because you’ll have to work longer at the start, but because you’ll have to work shorter.

If you have a job, spouse, or family it is obvious that you will need to start small and prioritize your work. Start with a 1-hour workday and as you get results, increase to a 4-hour work day.

Why 4 hours? Because from personal experience, scientific studies, and anecdotes from the world’s most respected creatives, 3-5 hours is a sweet spot for mental energy expenditure.

4 hours as a deadline creates the frame of a game that you can play to win. If you play the character of someone who only works 4 hours, and you’ve internalized that trait, then you will feel the pressure to complete your work within that time.

Even better, when you chunk that work session up into smaller time blocks, you create a powerful environment to narrow your focus into a productive state of good stress.

If you can spend 8 hours building someone else’s dreams, you can spend 1 hour building your own.

XI – The Skill Stack

The state of work is changing. Specialists are out, but so are generalists. We live in a time of specialized generalism. You must pursue your curiosity, become obsessed with one crevice of reality, stack skills to solve burning problems within that domain, and let the base of your skill tree spread its roots into other connected domains.

Becoming a specialist is a great way to get replaced in this Digital Renaissance. Pigeon-holing yourself into one skill is not the path to independent success.

If you become a specialist, you can work for someone else for a pretty paycheck, but you don’t realize that they are the reason you can get paid. You can’t create an independent income because you haven’t learned those skills that allow you to get paid.

Big businesses have marketing, sales, operations, and other departments that all serve a role in acquiring customers and delivering their products.

There are no limits, aside from pleasurable distractions, to what you can learn and apply as one person. Individuals can learn design, marketing, writing, and video to run a multimillion-dollar business selling a solution to the problem they’ve solved in their lives.

Thanks to deep knowledge being accessible to those who want to find it on the internet, you can become top 10% in any skill with 6-12 months of focused effort. When you combine the skills we will discuss below, your opportunity surface area compounds.

The Message & Medium

It is impossible to achieve your version of success without value exchange. You must become a vessel of valuable information and exchange it for your desired form of value in relationships, business, and everyday life.

In other words, if you want to make money (the form of value you want) then you have to exchange your own form of value for someone that has money. It isn’t just going to appear out of thin air.

A valuable message is a way to communicate with others that is relatable, understandable, and actionable. This requires an understanding of human nature and psychology. The best way to do this is to learn marketing and sales – because they contain practical frameworks for understanding psychology with real-world practice.

Value is determined by perception and perception is influenced by an individual’s worldview. To spread valuable information with your message, it must be crafted for a group or individual’s level of mind, identity, and conditioning.

There are certain words you can craft to capture, hold, and deliver value on attention. You must get people to focus on you, or else their focus will gravitate toward something more distracting or valuable.

Your message must mimic the Universe:

  • Tell stories
  • Lead people through highs and lows
  • Spark emotions like your favorite movies
  • Open a curiosity loop to capture attention
  • Agitate a problem that then shapes their perspective
  • Relate with them through personal experience
  • Imply a goal with a desirable end result
  • Provide a path for them to follow to achieve that result

Value is behavior change.

The medium by which you spread your message is writing or speaking.

There is content in consciousness and content in the collective consciousness. The front end of your mind is content in your conscious attention and the front end of the internet is content in the collective consciousness. The back end of your mind is the unconscious programming that shapes who you are and the back end of the internet is the programmed operating system that houses content.

Putting content out into virtual reality is how you contribute to humanity through business.

Start by learning to write. Harness psychology through marketing and sales and write a valuable message for the world to discover on the internet.

Consistent writing helps your speaking. Writing is accessible to anyone. Everything on the internet starts with writing. Emails, posts, advertisements, video scripts, captions, direct messages, and more. Do not think that human psychology does not apply to any and all forms of writing regardless of where you write it.

Writing, speaking, marketing, and sales are the foundational skills that will determine the results of any other skill you learn.

Results Oriented Skills

Results-oriented skills are how you apply your message and medium of choice. They are the vessel for distributing your value. The message and medium are evergreen, while results-oriented skills change with the landscape. You must keep your finger on the pulse of advancements in your interests so that you don’t fade out as time progresses.

At this point in time, results-oriented skills are digital. We don’t live in a world where the printing press was just invented and profitable skills revolved around that. We live in a digital world.

These results-oriented skills are subject to change, but email marketing, graphic design, videography, photography, editing, animation, artificial intelligence, and social media are a few that allow us to apply our message to the current landscape with our medium of choice.

These skills are not only useful for your business but for others. All brands, creators, and students have problems that they want solved in their personal and professional lives. When you stack results-oriented skills with evergreen skills, you can practice on your own business or create a product or service to use those skills to grow someone else’s.

If you invest the time it would take to get a degree in building an email list of 50,000 like-minded readers, that’s twice the capacity of what a professional football stadium can hold. Now, if you craft a persuasive message, write a few emails, and promote a product that you’ve created as a solution to your own problems, I would not be surprised if you made the average United States salary in a month, minimum.

XII – The Project

One pattern I’ve noticed in my life is that I’ve always carved out time to build something of my own. Things like schoolwork, client work, and even projects assigned to me on a job were necessary, but they didn’t bring me the fulfillment I was looking for.I realized that the source of most people’s lack of fulfillment is that they’ve never learned or built something that they chose to learn or build.

The inputs and outputs of one’s mind were enslaved since birth with the conventional life path. Learn this. Build that. To the point where people hate the only two things that will free them from that enslavement. If you don’t make a choice, society chooses for you.

Having a perpetual stream of evolving personal projects to work on first thing brought novelty to my days. The discoveries, insight, and progress that I made across multiple domains were the source of my zest for life.

A project is a tangible hierarchy of goals that orders the mind, and you are the infinite project. You are your life’s work. You are a project that houses projects each with a purpose, path, and priority that when actualized, allows you to evolve. A project is how you throw an anchor in the unknown and pull yourself through a difficult current of learning experiences to complete the project.

The source of learning is struggle, not memorization. Learning is the process of turning knowledge into understanding, and the lowest points of your life are those where a stackable lesson presents itself, but only if you apply it in reality.

Projects help you frame what you learn. They allow you to pursue a goal, hit a roadblock, and frame your mind from the accompanying problem. Only from there can you truly learn something useful that can be instantly applied.

To learn information with efficiency:

  • Don’t start learning first
  • Create a project for the goal you want to achieve
  • Create a path or system to achieve that goal
  • Start building the project in the real world with what you know
  • Teach people about what you are building (this can be friends, family, or internet peers)
  • Identify knowledge gaps when you can’t build further or articulate your thoughts
  • Study deep knowledge to fill those knowledge gaps
  • Return to building and teaching
  • Repeat forever

This learning process utilizes novelty, pattern recognition, and self-experimentation to maximize the flow of information you experience.

Most people learn and learn and learn just to start over when it comes time to build, because they realize that everything they’ve learned has no direct use in the project they began. They don’t have a goal-specific lens to interpret their learnings from.

The only way to solve your problems for good is through self-experimentation.

Self-experimentation is the opposite of blind trust in a theory, guru, belief system, ideology, how-to advice, or dogma. It is the only way to discover what truly works for you and your infinitely unique needs.

For any given problem, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of options available to you to solve it. Limiting yourself to the one or two that you know may not solve your problem.

Your job is to:

  • Research a plethora of solutions to your problem
  • Test them all without latching onto one
  • Note principles, patterns, and truths between them
  • Note what gets you results, but may not get others’ results
  • Begin to create your own solution with what you’ve learned

This is where true value is cultivated. This value can be used for profit or just to make your life better.

If you have relationship problems: try going on a retreat, hiring a therapist, reading a book with advice, or working on it directly with your partner.

If you have money problems: try creating a budget, starting a side business, or improving your skillset to get a higher-paying job.

If you have health problems, try fad diets like carnivore or keto, study nutrition principles, and immerse yourself in information from all sources until you understand the full puzzle.

Don’t be discouraged if the important problems in your life aren’t solved in an instant.

XIII – The Vessel

Everyone is an entrepreneur; some just choose to get paid for the problems they solve in their personal life.

All profitable products start as a project whether the intention to sell is there or not. If you want to generate a creative independent income to free yourself from society’s chains, you will need to sell a valuable product. And what’s a better starting point than a personal project that solves a burning problem that all living beings encounter?

Self-improvement is about solving problems in your life. Business is about solving problems in other people’s lives. Stop overcomplicating how to make money. Stop trying to solve creative problems that don’t exist. Acquire the skills to solve the problems in your life – which is an automatic filter for value – then turn the solution into a product for others.

There are 4 eternal markets in business: health, wealth, relationships, and happiness. These are where all burning problems and meaningful goals exist in your life and in others. Solve your own problems and sell the solution.

How to start a billion-dollar company: Don’t. Instead, start as one person. If you can’t turn your interests into income, you don’t have the skill to start a business that requires 10 times the resources.

You, as an individual, have the ability to attract an audience to your work and put a valuable product in front of them.

This is where most people start complicating modern business. They say you need to “niche down” and target an audience that you probably don’t care to work with. Modern business advice is a surefire way to end up in another line of work that you hate.

Let’s tie this all together with a simple statement:

The most profitable niche is you.

Your purpose is your brand. Your path is your product. Your priorities are your content. Your content contains the valuable message that attracts people to your brand. When you occasionally put your product in front of them, that’s how you start to generate an independent income.

What is more “niche” than your combination of skills and interests that you learned on the path toward your goals?

Everyone has the same big goals of making more money, having more sex, having more energy, and ending their existential angst.

While the goals are the same, the path you will take is different. If myself and another have the goal of making money, we are both going to research and experiment with different things. I may try e-commerce or digital products while they try budgeting and starting a brick-and-mortar business.

By pursuing your goals, solving your problems through self-experimentation, turning personal projects into products, and spreading a valuable message to attract people with a similar identity as you, I see it as very difficult to not make as much money as you please with time and iteration.

If you are the niche, saturation ceases to exist. Everyone will have a unique product that serves people at their level of mind and helps raise the collective consciousness.

The fate of humanity is not guaranteed. The evolution of the collective is only as powerful as the individuals that comprise it. It is for that reason that our evolution depends on the individuals you and I create through the reproduction of information born from conscious personal progress.

Turning yourself into a business is how you reproduce on a spiritual level. It is how you shape the development of selves across the globe and contribute to humanity.

While most people spread information that holistically leads to evil and destruction, you can seek to solve problems – from superficial to metaphysical – and become a massive value creator.

To reiterate the entirety of this path:

  • Understand and experience the patterns of The Universe
  • Experience the full range of the human experience
  • Align your decisions with the perspective of your ideal self
  • Pursue a hierarchy of goals and solve the true problems in your life
  • From an elevated level of mind, use your creative ability to build holistic projects that contribute to humanity

Hunt for ideas and build with your own two hands. Make the immaterial material. Turn dirt into gold. Become a fountainhead of value in a world that is desperate for depth.

At the root of it all, leave your dent in the world through The Art of Focus.

If you’d like to grab a physical copy of the book, you can do so here.

Who Is Dan Koe?

I am a writer & brand advisor for 7-8 figure creators, influencers, and social media brands. I am obsessed with dissecting human potential, lifestyle design, and one-person businesses.

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