I love To-Do lists.
They help me stay organized and brain dump everything I need to do.
Also, it’s super satisfying to check off items once they’re completed. 😊
If you don’t already keep a to-do list, I would highly recommend it.
✅ They help make sure you get done what you need to.
🌞Help to relieve stress and leave your mind feeling clearer.
🎁You get to cross out or check the boxes of your tasks!
Several other reasons, but trust me they’re helpful.
I recommend making to-do lists digitally on Trello or in a notebook.
To-Do Lists help us spend our time in the best way.
Having to-do lists gives us the ability to spend our time making decisions that make the most sense for ourselves and our goals.
Put simply they help us make “good” decisions.
But what if we had a list of “bad” decisions. A list that in order to accomplish, you have to NOT do anything on it.
Avoiding bad decisions is as important as making good ones.
Recently, I was introduced to a new kind of list. A list of “bad” decisions.
It’s called a “Not-To-Do” list. And if you didn’t already realize it’s a list of things not to do.
Literally the opposite of a to-do list but equally important.
One of my mentors once wrote:
“Avoiding bad decisions is equally (if not more) important than making good ones.” — Navid Nathoo
This makes a lot of sense and if it doesn’t to you from first glance I’ll break it down a little.
You could be making only good decisions or the “right” decisions for the life you want to create, putting you on a trajectory to get there.
However, making one bad decision after all that time and effort, could set you completely off course and on a trajectory that won’t get you to where you aspire to go.
Someone who talks about this whole notion of the importance of avoiding bad decisions is Charlie Munger.
Meet Charlie Munger:
Charlie is an investor, philanthropist, businessman, and former attorney. He also served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII. Currently, he is the chairman of Berkshire Hathway. Charlie is also Warren Buffet’s partner.
As mentioned a couple of lines up ⬆, Charlie is an advocate for avoiding bad decisions.
Charlie once said,
“It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.” — Charlie Munger
What he means by this is that oftentimes you can get far just by avoiding bad decisions more so than trying to make good ones.
One way Charlie tries to avoid making bad decisions is by sticking to his circle of competence.
The circle of competence is the area we’re most competent in. Through our own unique experiences, we’ve gained knowledge in various areas. Some of those areas are stronger than others.
🔑Takeaway — Try and stick with your strengths and what you're most competent in.
Something else that Charlie did and follows to avoid making poor decisions is his version of a Not-To-Do list — five things that guarantee a miserable life.
This was something Charlie created that was originally inspired by a speech from a late-night television host named Johnny Carson once did.
Charlie’s prescription for a miserable life.
According to Charlie, if you can avoid all of these five things you will not live a miserable life.
His list is as follows:
- Letting addition take over.
- Feeling resentful.
- Being unreliable.
- Letting life knock you down.
- Refusing to learn from past mistakes.
To learn about Charlie’s reasoning behind these five prescriptions, I would recommend checking out this article.
Inspired by my mentor Navid and Charlie Munger, I made my first iteration of a “Not-To-Do” list this week.
😈My “Not-To-Do” list.
(For the skimmer, here’s my original list).
I made my not-to-do list based on past lessons I’ve learned, values I have, and what I currently believe that if I avoid will lead me on the right path.
I’m currently seventeen, so I know I’ll learn more as I grow.
How the rest of this article is going to go is I’m going to give some reasoning behind the items on my personal not-to-do list and then dive into tips on making your own.
Here’s my list of things to avoid, if something resonates with you — add it to your list 😉.
Let’s dive in! ⬇
Mindsets & Relationships:
🧠Negative self-talk. Telling yourself “I can’t do this.”
The only time you can tell yourself you can’t do something is if it’s on this list. There’s no upside in negative self-talk. When you tell yourself that you “can’t” do something, you start believing it. It also leads to a bad relationship with yourself and that relationship is extremely important.
😡Lie or inflate the truth.
I strongly agree with this quote that says,
“The truth always comes out in the end, no matter how hard you try to hide or stop it. Lies are just a temporary delay to the inevitable.” — Unknown
When you lie or inflate the truth, the truth always comes out eventually. Lying hurts yourself those around you, so don’t do it. Be honest about what you’ve done whether it be good or bad. Honesty is such an important trait and the ability to own up to your mistakes is a major part of it.
Being honest also helps you build trust within your relationships. So please don’t lie or inflate the truth to others and also yourself.
🥺Give up when things get hard.
Not giving up when things get hard will help you build resilience and grow a ton. Hard experiences are opportunities to learn and develop a better version of yourself if you choose to have an open mind about them.
Most great things take hard work to achieve. If you have goals for yourself and your life, there will always be roadblocks and hard times you have to push through in order to accomplish them.
😭Not stick to your core values.
When you don’t stick to your core values, you feel a lot of disconnect with how you’re spending your time.
Your core values help you do what makes the most sense for you and stay away from the things that don’t. Like a “not-to-do” list they can help you avoid bad decisions and make good ones. Check out mine here.
I would recommend identifying what your core values are, making a list of them, and assessing whether what you’re spending your time doing aligns with them.
✔Say yes to everything.
Please don’t say yes to everything. Why?
- You don’t have the time to do “everything.”
- Not “everything” makes sense to your goals and align with your core values.
The ability to say “no” to things superpowers you when paired with self-awareness.
🔒Share anyone’s personal secrets with anyone without there permission. Talk behind anyone’s back.
If someone shares something personal with you or a “secret”, keep it between you two. Don’t share it with anyone else without their permission.
If you do, you’re breaking their trust.
This also goes for talking behind anyone’s back. Talking behind someone’s back won’t make you feel any better about yourself. Just don’t do it.
📖Judge a book by its cover.
I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before but it’s so true. Not everyone or everything is how it seems on the outside. Be open-minded and take the time to understand people’s stories and things on a deeper level.
🤠Try and fit in. Not be your authentic self.
Don’t try to fit in. With this one too, I’m sure you’ve heard it countless times.
I strongly believe that you’ll be way more fulfilled being authentically yourself than you will be trying to fit in.
Authenticity is the 🔑 to a good life.
🦈Not do something because you’re scared.
There are many times where I don’t do things because I’m scared.
Doing the right thing can be scary. Doing the hard things to make your goals happen is scary.
Doing scary things helps you grow and be present/make the most of your life.
Now when something scares me, I take that as a trigger to challenge myself to do it.
Please note: if something is unsafe, don’t do it.
Growing complacent is like becoming lazy and not making any progress.
I don’t want to do this because to me complacency is like giving up and I already said I don’t want to do that above.
I want to always be actively working towards my goals even if it’s failing to learn something important moving forward with them.
🙉Care a lot about what people think about you.
Not everyone is going to like you and that’s okay. Everyone is going to have an opinion on you, but the only ones you should care about are yours and those closest to you. Even with those closest to you, decide what makes sense to you.
You’ll waste a ton of time if you care a lot about what others think about you, so learn how to not care about that so much.
Holding grudges is like creating “shackles” for yourself.
You’re always going to have that grudge in the back of your mind, weighing you down.
I’m a firm believer in forgiveness but not forgetting. If someone has wronged you, I say forgive them but don’t forget what happened and be more cautious.
Letting go of any grudges or shackles will help you live your best life.
👑Try and be perfect all the time.
I’ve had a want to be “perfect” for most of my life. Striving for perfection can be great in many ways but it also has a downside. If you want everything to be “perfect” it will almost never get done.
I now follow this rule:
Done > Perfect and Correct > Done
Strive to do the best you can but not for “perfection.” Every time you create something and get it done, you can improve the next time.
🤯Overthink and live in the past a lot.
“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” — Rafiki (Disney’s The Lion King)
Shoutout to Disney for many wise words on important life lessons like moving forward from the past. It’s easy to overthink things and hold on to what happened in our past.
Like Rafiki said the past can hurt. If it hurts, you’re actually more likely to hold onto it due to something called the “negativity bias.” However, you’ll feel a lot more present and fulfilled if you choose to learn from it, let go of it, and move forwards.
🐢Blame other people for your problems. Not owning up to things.
The only person you can blame for your problems is yourself. Don’t blame other people for how you feel about something. That’s a form of lying to yourself.
Yes, sometimes other people are involved but you are in control of how you feel and creating the life you wish to live.
Also, choose to own up to how you feel and mistakes you’ve made. Trust me it’s a great habit.
🦋Take out your problems on other people.
When you’re going through a tough time it can seem simple to take out your problems on other people through the form of making others look bad, being rude to people, etc.
Not only are you hurting others but you’re also not helping yourself.
Taking out your problems with other people just like talking behind their back (which is a form of this) will NOT make you feel better about yourself.
If anything it’ll make you feel worse.
Instead take some time to deal with your problems on your own or seek help from those around you.
Don’t have regrets. This relates to living or dwelling on the past.
I often say if you have regrets than you’re not grateful for the life you have now. Learning from past mistakes and failures is always a good thing to do, to help you avoid bad decisions and make good ones moving forwards.
However, regretting your past means you haven’t come to terms with or learned from your past experiences and shows that you don’t like yourself/your life in the present.
🙈Have a fixed mindset. Not be open-minded. Not want to grow.
Being open-minded is such a superpower! If you have an open-mind or a growth mindset, you can do almost anything you set your mind too.
If you have a fixed mindset, don’t want to learn from past mistakes, and don’t want to grow you’re stuck in a dangerous mental state that will prevent you from living your best life.
🌪Confuse deserving something with wanting something.
Start making a habit of becoming more aware of when you want something over if you deserve it. You’ll realize most things you think you deserve you really just want.
If you think you deserve lots of things, you’re probably entitled and that’s something you shouldn’t want to be.
😝Take yourself too seriously.
Life is short. It really is. Don’t take everything so seriously and this goes for yourself too.
Have fun, take risks, and go for everything you want to do.
If you don’t, life will pass you by and you’ll wish you did.
🌄Allow someone else to define what success means to you.
Only YOU can define what “success” looks like to you.
Take the time to do this because it will save you a lot of time and misalignment from spending your time doing things that don’t make sense to you.
Once you figure out what success looks like to you, work backward and come up with an action plan to make it happen.
🌞Apologize for being happy.
Never apologize for being happy. If someone is upset about you being happy, you shouldn’t want them in your life. They’re probably unhappy with their life and they’re taking it out on you.
If you’re truly “happy” with where you are right now, let yourself be and don’t care about what others think about it.
🦁Not stand up for yourself.
Standing up for yourself is a scary thing to do but it’s 100% worth it. This ability is one that will come in handy to create the life you want for yourself and respectfully defend yourself when others are trying to tear you down.
😶Be a bystander.
If you see injustice happen, do something about it. You’d want the same to be done for you.
🥂Drink alcohol or do drugs.
I’m seventeen, so this is kind of explanatory but as of right now I’d like to avoid these things even when I’m old enough to drink/do certain drugs.
💊Not take your pills or not carry your EpiPen.
This is self-explanatory. If you have pills you have to take or any medical devices, please use them or talk to your doctor if there’s a reason you don’t want to.
🔗Suppress your negative feelings — creating shackles for yourself.
This is bad for your mental health. I wrote an article on why it’s important to deal with negative feelings or “shackles” here.
☁Not ask for help when you need it.
Also pertaining to mental health but also many aspects of life. If you need help, as for it. I know for some it can scary to ask for help sometimes because you feel weak or like you’re bothering people but it’s highly important.
😴Not sleep for more than 36 hours. You did it for 48 once and went kinda crazy.
We all need to sleep. For different people, this time might differ but I stayed up for 48+ hours during an airport delay and wasn’t doing too great. I wouldn’t recommend it. Please sleep.
I used to drink 8–10 coffees or teas every day. I’m not proud of it. Recently, I cut out caffeine and I feel way better. I’ve been replacing my caffeine with water and my mind feels very clear.
🧁Eat high-carb, sugary, or processed foods.
This is a personal diet preference. Sugary foods make me hyper. I also aspire to follow a paleo or low-carb high-fat diet, as I find it makes me feel my best.
Milk also doesn't make me feel that great. I’m choosing to avoid it, as much as possible.
📃Not read through contracts.
Just read through them before you sign them. Trust me.
👎🏼Think your idea is stupid.
Something I often do is not speak up about ideas I have when at “the table” because I’m scared that my idea is stupid. If my idea is stupid, people will think I’m stupid.
The reality is it’s probably not stupid. If it is, oh well — you can learn from it and laugh about it later. Also, most people won’t remember your idea later and stupid is subjective.
There’s little downside in sharing your ideas. Who knows sharing it could be a gamechanger for you and maybe the world too.
Communication is 🔑 in relationships both professional and personal.
If you can’t get something done on time — communicate it to your team.
Not sure about something — communicate… ask for clarification.
Questioning the quality of your work? — communicate…ask for feedback.
📧Not open emails for more than 3 days. — Unless on vacay, then figure it out.
Again this time might differ for each person, but for myself, I find that if I don’t open emails for more than 3 days I sometimes miss out on important meetings, exciting opportunities, and come off as not “on-the-ball.”
✖Plagiarize or not credit other’s work.
You probably learned this in school and it applies to your work outside of school too.
Don’t plagiarize others' work. Credit your sources and other people’s ideas. You’ll keep yourself out of a lot of trouble avoiding doing this.
🐵Let the instant gratification monkey take over. Leave things to the last minute.
The instant gratification monkey was conceived by Tim Urban’s brain. Check out this awesome Ted Talk to learn more about it:
Letting the instant gratification monkey take over leads to a lot of procrastination from what’s important to you and your goals.
Additionally, it can cause you to leave things to the last minute and I’m sure we’ve all been there. It is not a good feeling.
⭐Commit to something you know you won’t be able to do. Not keep your word.
This goes for professional affairs and personal ones.
Don’t commit to something you know you won’t be able to do. You’re creating a lot of grief for yourself and wasting other people’s time.
In doing this or not keeping your word on something, you also cause people to lose trust in you.
🛠 Making your “not-to-do” list.
If seeing my list of things to avoid, inspired you to make one yourself. Here are some tips I have for making yours:
- Figure out what your core values are. This will help you figure out what aligns with them and what good/bad decisions look like in your life.
- Figure out your circle of competency. I got this one from Charlie Munger. Identify your strengths and also your weaknesses.
- Reflect on past experiences. What were some times you made mistakes and how can you avoid making them again?
- Ask yourself: what would my future self thank me for NOT doing now?
- Ask yourself: what does success look like to me and what do I need to avoid to achieve it?
- Ask others in your life: what they’d recommend avoiding for a good life.
⭐After you make your list, I’d recommend sending it to your future self every month or as often as you see needed. Again this website is great for sending future letters.
💌If you make a list, tweet me it 🐤 - @astro_adara.
- Avoiding bad decisions is equally (if not more) important than making good ones.
- Charlie Munger often talks about the importance of avoiding bad decisions to guarantee a good life.
- Making a “Not-To-Do” list can help you avoid making bad decisions.
- Figuring out what your strengths (& weaknesses) are is helpful in creating our list and understanding yourself. Charlie Munger calls this the “circle of competency.”
- Figuring out your core values is also a good way to understand yourself better and figure out what to put on your list.
- My core values: https://www.notion.so/astronautadara/dara-s-core-values-9d67c2f7dff24081ac7e662256907635
- My “Not-To-Do” list: https://www.notion.so/astronautadara/not-to-do-list-bc9bce8cbec14e77b40ed27138e86b34
- Charlie Munger's prescriptions for a miserable life: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/19/charlie-munger-avoid-these-5-things-that-guarantee-a-miserable-life.html
- Inside the mind of a master procrastinator — Tim Urban: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arj7oStGLkU
- Future letter writing: futureme.org
Like Charlie Munger says, avoiding bad decisions is important to guarantee a good life.
I hope you learned about the importance of bad decision avoidance and are inspired to create your own “Not-To-Do” list after reading this.
Make good decisions but most importantly avoid bad ones.
A seventeen y/o trying to avoid bad decisions,