About Mental Mastery

19 life hacks to give you an unfair advantage

A lifehack is a secret to help you get more out of life with only a little extra effort. Here are a few I’ve learned to get further ahead faster.

Ed Latimore, author, blogger, and retired pro boxer
Ed Latimore Author, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

“Life Hacks” are a wildly popular idea right now, but what exactly does this phrase mean?

As far as I can tell, they’re little known pieces of information which are supposed to make your life easier and/or more efficient. In particular, a lifehack goes against intuition or commonly accepted solutions for a problem.

In other words, a lifehack is a secret to help you get more out of life.

Life hacks are techniques for living that solve existing problems, prevent future ones, and make the process of living more efficient and rewarding.

A lifehack has to be simple to execute carry a disproportionately high return on the energy expended. You’re supposed to put in 2 and get out 20.

We All Have A Few Life Hacks Of Our Own

Everyone has a set of life hacks they’ve learned through trial and error.

Today I bring my own personal collection to you. That’s the wonderful thing about the internet; we can all learn from one another. We all have different life experiences that allow us each to bring something unique to the table.

I’m going to give you 19 simple life hacks I’ve discovered over 35 year of living and learning things the hard way. None of these are from a list, so any repeating of things you’ve read elsewhere on the internet is purely coincidental. These are simply little things that I’ve picked that have given me a (relatively) unfair advantage in some situations.

I’ve also decided that this list is going to be continually updated. It’s starting with 19 life hacks, but let’s see how many cool things I find over the course of my life.

1. Unless you have an allergy or a strict dietary restriction, always accept when someone offers you a drink or a meal.

People like you more when you accept their random acts of kindness and general hospitality. This will make them like you even more than if you do something nice for them.

This is referred to as The Ben Franklin Effect. It is named so because of an observation made by Ben Franklin:

He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.

Before there was the internet to read about this powerful phenomena, Ben Franklin discovered this principle and used it to get on the good side of a Pennsylvania legislator. He asked to borrow a rare book of his (getting the rival to do the favor) and thanked him for it.

The result? In Franklin’s own words:

When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.

This life hack isn’t just my personal experience or an anecdote from Benjamin Franklin. It turns out that there’s official research into this phenomena as well.

Researchers ran their own experiment to verify the validity of this idea.

Participants were challenged to a mental contest. Winners of the contest were either:

  1. Asked to return their prize money by the researcher because he had been using his own money and was running short
  2. Asked by a secretary to return their prize money because it was from the department and budget was running low
  3. Allowed to keep their prize money (i.e. not approached).

Everyone was then surveyed to see how much they liked the researcher. Both groups 1 and 2 rated the research more likeable than group 3.

Getting people to do nice things for you is a serious life hack to immediately make you more likeable.

2. Whatever country makes your favorite food, learn how to order your favorite dishes in that language.

I can’t tell you how many times my meal has magically doubled in size or something has been given to me on the house because I order “Chow mei fun” at Chinese restaurants or “Camarones y bistec de carne con guacamole” at a Mexican spot.

The trick to making this work out well for you is to speak confidently, clearly, and with as much of an accent in your target language as possible. When you speak someone’s language, they’re more likely to like and trust you. If you speak confidently and with the correct pronunciation, this will make the people serving your food look more kindly towards you.

There’s a great deal of research that shows that when you speak the language like the people who speak it as their native language, the listeners trust you more. They like you more. They’re more willing to help you out.

This goes for all social interactions, but you’ll see the most immediate returns by using this language life hack in ethnic restaurant outings.

3. The life hack to avoid 90% of car issues

  • Change your car oil every 3,000 miles
  • Pass inspection
  • Always pay for more time than you need at the parking meter
  • Don’t text and drive
  • Don’t drink and drive

If you do these very simple things, you dramatically decrease the likelihood you’ll have surprise vehicular trouble costs and troubles.

When I was 18, I got my first car with some insurance money from when my dad died. I didn’t know anything about changing the oil and inspection. This probably seems like obvious stuff to most people reading this, but it wasn’t to me and it cost me dearly in a having a get a new engine.

My parking meter hack comes from the pain of getting on a boot on my car on 3 separate occasions. You only get a boot after you get more than a few parking tickets. Not only do you have to pay the late fees on the tickets, but there’s a boot removal fee as well. This can total from anywhere from $500-$800; and you can’t pay it in installments

It’s gotta be all up front, within 1-2 business days of receiving the boot, or your car becomes effectively impossible to retrieve.

Not drinking or texting while driving should go without saying, but that doesn’t mean I won’t say it here. If you engage in either of those behaviors, keep in mind that you have to keep getting lucky. Meanwhile, law enforcement or bad timing only has to “get lucky” once.

4. Use condoms

This is for men and women.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Your life ONLY gets more difficult if you have an unexpected child. Your life ONLY gets more difficult if you contract an STD. Even the stress induced by a scare isn’t enjoyable.

The cost of unprotected sex far exceeds its value.

If you’re going to do it like this, at least stick with one person. I can’t fathom why–given all that we know–people would have unprotected sex with strangers. Especially men.

5. Manners make every interaction with people easier

Forget what you may have seen in movies or heard from someone’s cool story. Good manners go a VERY long way.

Your food comes faster in restaurants. The portions are bigger. Customer service is a little more helpful. Cops are a little more forgiving. The difference between a “have a nice night” and a criminal record is often as simple as a “yes sir”.

6. Clean things look more valuable

If you want to look like you have more money than you actually do, keep your car clean and be well-groomed. It’s cheap to get your vehicle detailed and your clothes ironed and well fitting. This effect is enhanced by self-discipline.

When you’re in shape and you make an effort to be orderly, you’ll need to spend less time cleaning and less money trying to replace your clothing.

People associate order with affluence. I’m sure you can think of situations where this association can come in handy.

7. If you REALLY want to do college, you should be able to test out of 40-60 credits

College isn’t for everyone. I’d even go as far as to say that college isn’t for most ambitious people.

If you aren’t ambitious, it’s not a bad way to make an average salary so you can spend your nights and weekends distracted by Netflix. But if you really want to go, there are many things you can do to save yourself time and money.

Each major is different, but there’s NO REASON you should have to pay average 4-year college tuition amounts for any 100 level class. You can test out of many subjects for free or at a very low cost. I wrote about my experience testing out of classes in the following article:

College is a hustle, but there are counter hustles IF you work hard enough.

8. Start improving your wardrobe at the shoes

Women intuitively understand this. Men, I’m gonna put you up on game.

Go buy nice shoes. Make those shoes–not your sneakers–what you commonly wear. You’ll be forced to build the rest of your wardrobe around them.

From a functionality standpoint, a man needs at least 3 types of shoes: casual sneakers, athletic shoes, and dress shoes. The problem most men have is that they only break out the dress shoes for nice occasions and wear athletic shoes for everything else.

But casual sneakers are shoes you walk around in but aren’t running, working out, or playing sports. They look nice but don’t have the shine or style of a typical dress shoe.

All other footwear (boots, sandals, loafers, etc) are beyond the scope of this article but here’s a great resource on men’s fashion and footwear.

9. The best way to live below your means is to become a health freak

When you’re concerned about your health, you’ll cook and exercise more. You’ll also spend less time doing things not conducive to health (like ordering take out an spending time at the bar).

In the face of peer pressure you can always justify not going out, as you’re trying to improve your physical health. You’ll save a great deal of money by just having a fitness goal and chasing it.

Generally speaking, there’s no greater life hack than improving your fitness and health in terms of both the process to get there and the outcome you achieve.

10. Your health is the most valuable thing in the world, but not for the reason you think

If you’re really strapped for cash, you can always donate plasma or participate in clinical trials.

You’ll need to pass a physical demonstrating good health and they ALWAYS need controls (non-smokers in good health). Sometimes they take smokers, but most of them don’t. You’ll save money AND be able to make more money if you don’t smoke.

In my 20’s, I supplemented my income by doing clinical trials at the local university as well as a few phase 1 trials. Phrase 1 trails are where new drugs and treatments are tested on humans for the first time.

Yes, this is potentially as scary as it sounds, but you can easily make a few thousand dollars. Most times you’re going to be alright, but these are new drugs so the outcome isn’t guaranteed.

11. If you’re going to fall, quickly lower your center of gravity and keep your vital parts from hitting the ground.

I thought about this after remembering a nasty spill that I almost took last winter.

I was on my way out to clean my car off when I slipped on ice and fell down a small flight of stairs. I’ve fallen before and yet I’ve never been hurt by it. My first instinct was to quickly sit down instead fighting to stay up.

See, gravity is going to cause me to accelerate at the same rate no matter what. Instead of fighting to maintain a lost position, I made sure that I could fall as safely as possible.

There are many analogies to this in life. When things are going badly you have to immediately recognize this, then figure out the best way to salvage your situation.

Very often, this means quickly entering a worse situation at your best rather than ruining yourself holding on to a lost cause.

12. A great life hack for your** diet is a crock pot.**

If you complain you don’t have enough time to cook healthy meals–or to cook at all–a crock pot is your best friend.

A $5 piece of meat can easily be stretched with rice and vegetables to give 1 person 3-4 meals. You can do the math on each additional person you have to feed.

It allows you eat at a low cost and, because of the type of food you make in a crockpot and how it’s prepared, it’s much healthier than fast food. If you’re low on money and time but your health is a high priority, a crock pot is a cheap investment with a high return.

13. Money in the bank > good credit

I feel like this should be obvious, but too many people get caught up in the myth of good credit above all things. I’ve had a sub 400 and plus 700 credit score. Each time, I hardly noticed.

On the other hand, I always noticed when I was $50 short or had an extra $200. When there’s a crisis, your good credit score won’t cover your visit to medexpress or your car repairs.

Improving your credit score is nice and is something that everyone should do, but it’s a long term game that allows you to–ironically enough–do things without actually having the money to. Before you start attacking debt (the fastest way to improve your credit score), make sure you’ve got some extra cash on hand.

14. The best way to get people to stop harassing you is public embarrassment

Or the threat of it. A screenshot conversation shared on social media is worth 1,000 arguments. Don’t do this if you’re in the least bit wrong or care about the outcome being positive one day.

This is so powerful because it brings shame and embarrassment to a person. It’s one thing for a person to carry on when no one can see their behavior. It’s a different story when their foolishness is brought to light.

Only a psychopath wouldn’t feel bad about having their heinous behavior exposed.

15. Wanna know if a supplement is bullshit or not?

See if it’s on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list.

They’re the agency that decides what’s allowed and not allowed in boxing (they may do it in other sports, but boxing is the one I’m most familiar with). If something really works, it’s going to be on there.

Inclusion on the list doesn’t mean it’s criminally illegal–most things on there aren’t. It only means that it actually gives you a competitive advantage. It just so happens that some stuff that gives you an advantage is also illegal.

If the substance is banned from competition but not against the law, it most certainly gives you a serious mental or physical advantage. If you’re just training for the sake of being in shape, then any substance that is actually against the rules is competition is what you want to use.

16. Beware of “The Vampire Law”

This isn’t that much of a life hack, but it’s a potentially useful piece of information. Also, it’s not actually called “The Vampire Law”, but I learned about this from a cop friend of mine.

First, let me explain why I call it the Vampire Law. In vampire mythology, you’re safe in from a vampire in your home. The only way you can be attacked in the borders of your domain is by inviting them in. As long as you don’t give a vampire an invitation to your home, you’re fine. The problem is when you let one in…

In many states, if you let a person who doesn’t live with you do anything to establish residency in your home, you can’t just kick them out. You actually have to go a magistrate and initiate eviction proceedings.

What exactly does “establish residency” entail? Something as obvious as getting mail to as innocuous as having a key because they’re spending a few days with you.

Here’s a Quora question thread with people discussing their experience with this particular problem.

17. Take notes by hand

This means carrying a little notebook around with you.

If you get a random idea, no one ever questions you jotting it down. You won’t remember it and trying to put it in your phone is rude to someone who may be talking to you.

18. Does your focus suck?

Get distracted easily by the world of the internet and social media? Here’s a quick fix that worked for me:

Buy a little kitchen timer and work to that. Don’t open your browser and turn off your phone while you’re working. Better if it ticks. Mine does.

It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with 30 uninterrupted minutes of work. Once the timer goes off, get your dopamine fix and check social media and browse.

If that fails, you can always try Gorilla Mind Rush.

19. Are you a serious piece of shit or close enough to it that you actually thought about your answer to the first part of this question?

Want to change your life quickly and reliably? Join the Mormon church. I’m not part of the Mormon church, but they really have their marketing and lifestyle down (except you can’t drink coffee).

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered why this young pretty girl was talking to me (until I learned the signs). You’ll be surrounded by people who follow a strict code of living that will elevate you, a supportive community, and you might even learn a new language.

Check back to this page often as I find new things that give me a big advantage in this small world.

Ed Latimore, author, blogger, and retired pro boxer
Ed Latimore Author, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

Further Reading

Why do I keep relapsing? (how to stop for good)
How to get unstuck in life (how I went from mediocrity to high achiever)
8 unexpected reasons why math is so hard
5 things to keep in mind for developing your writing voice