The Ultimate Guide to Making a Personal Manifesto

rembrandt moses

Sometimes things are just simply horrible. There’s no question – some days and moments are the worst. People say “be positive”. That means nothing. Positive got you here.

But you only get to know yourself when you see how you act in those moments.

This is not a fancy post. Nothing funny really. No stories of going broke or being scared or smashing coconuts or making fun of my kids. No stories of dying drunk in the streets and coming back.

A manifesto has nothing to do with money. Money is a byproduct.

It’s not about success. Who knows what that means?

I highly recommend writing down your own manifesto.

Something to fall back on in the worst moments.

Something to strive for. And, in between falling and striving, a simple way to live your best life right now.

Living by your personal manifesto lets you touch people. Let’s you celebrate living. Turns you into someone worth touching.

My Manifesto:

– Do things that will make me laugh. Do things that will make others laugh. Laughter is the one key to long, quality life.

– Treat everyone as if they are going to die tomorrow. My sweet baby.

– Spend time with people who love me and who I love. Your family might change every day.

– Give everything inside of you away. Else your life gets constipated.

– Keep my word. That’s the one thing you don’t give away lightly. Keep it.

– Spend time with people who I will learn things from (and hopefully vice-versa). They were sent to you for a reason. You’re never going to know the reason.

– Books are virtual mentors. Read a lot.

– Move. Then move again.

– It’s ok to be average if you are a good person. In most things, I’m average or below average. I’m average at following this manifesto. It’s hard to be average.

– Follow your curiosity. That means something different for each person, and for each day. Today I was curious about underwear with pockets and how many albums Pink Floyd sold on “Dark Side of the Moon”. No reason.

– I try to eat well. I see too many older people in pain because of poor eating decisions when they were younger.

– It’s none of my business what people think of me. Someone recently called me “hateful” and then lectured me on the benefits of polygamy. Hey man, we’re all brothers. Life’s too short to waste time not laughing at the joke.

– I try not to need permission for anything. Once I ask, I just let someone else build my ceiling, blocking me from the stars.

– One way to choose yourself is to help the person around you who needs the most help today. Do it without expectation and then you exceed all expectations.

– When I depend on others to choose my path, I know that I won’t be as happy as when I choose my path.

– There are many layers to choosing yourself. So treat yourself gently when you think you messed up. I messed up on something recently. It feels bad. I have to wait it out and be gentle to myself.

– Find new things to be grateful for.

– Listen. You can’t learn if you are talking.

– Listen more if someone is in pain. Don’t solve. Just listen.

– Worrying doesn’t solve tomorrow’s problems and only takes away energy from today. And regret is a black hole of nothing.

– Splitting an atom releases 1,000,0000x more energy than smashing a table. I try to celebrate always the smallest of successes. A kiss is a small success. And it splits an emotional atom.

– For every night, there is a day

– I take real delight in people who have stories to tell me. Particularly if the story has pictures.

– Every day I try to get out of my comfort zone at least once. This helps me feel connected to people. I’m grateful for the people who teach me new ways to get out of my comfort zone.

– I try to be creative. But selfishly. Because it makes my brain go on fire and have comic book powers.

– Before, during, or after, I say, do, or think something, I try not to hurt anyone. “After” is just as important as “Before” and “During”.

– When I am feeling low, rest. When I’m feeling high, do my best.

– The best predictor of a good tomorrow, is a good today.

– Honesty, Humor, Health, Help.

Ok. Enough. I don’t want to seem preachy. This is a manifesto for me. For my dark moments.

This is what works for me. Others have different items that work for them.

And I don’t always follow this. I just try.

Maybe this is corny or cliche. But I will tell you what – I wanted to write this today and I did.

Life is worth living only if it’s worth loving.

  • Please tell me what yours is. Or what interesting things to include. Maybe we can make a group manifesto.

    • Lisa Wechtenhiser

      “Words have an energy. Use them wisely.” :) Thanks for sharing your manifesto, James.

    • Martin

      Try to main a non-anxious presence in the presence of anxious others.

    • No matter what happens in my life, some people will always have it “better” than me. Some will always have it “worse.” So I try not to worry about either.

      This inspired me. So I wrote the rest of mine on my blog, if you’re curious: http://profoundreading.com/manifesto/

    • Nuaym Lindsay

      -have no regrets
      -get out of my comfort zone
      -keep learning
      -hard work pays off.
      -consistency is key
      -we’re all in this together
      -optimism can go a long way
      -get to the root of the problem
      -face your fears
      -confidence is king
      -find your happy place
      -i’d prefer a happy medium over high highs and low lows
      -do what you want, when you want, from where you want
      -hold yourself accountable. you are in control of your lifes choices and decisions
      -there are 7.3 billion different ways to live
      -eat well, sleep well
      -trust yourself
      -the world is a self reflection of yourself so dig deep and fix things that you have issues with deep down with in yourself.

    • Tom Cummings

      Catching up on your blog this week … love your books, James!

      This is an evolution of my mission statement over the last couple of years, and I “finished” it earlier this year. Manifesto, I like that.

      1. Always be confident; believe in yourself first and your ability to achieve.
      2. Be loyal and devoted, show love and encouragement.
      3. Let go of the past, and do not dwell on the future; be alive now.
      4. Strive for financial solvency and self-reliance.
      5. Listen to your own voice, not the voices of the world; be unconventional.
      6. Stay energetic and enthusiastic; maintain vitality and strength.
      7. Be optimistic.
      8. Avoid overindulgence; stay clear-minded and vigorous.
      9. Be a leader.
      10. Grow, always grow; strive to improve at all times.

      Seek:

      – Temperance, for better physical and mental health
      – Evolution, for greater internal strength and direction
      – Positivity, for improved outlook and energy
      – Wisdom, for sound judgment and alignment with principles

      I, too, am about average at staying on mission but I return to this whenever I feel I have strayed. ;)

      Keep up the great work, my man; you are an inspiration!

  • jungleful

    the best predictor of a good tomorrow is a good today…HURRAY! hey, come visit us in the cloud forest of ecuador. claudia and i will get along famously (i have been teaching ashtanga for the past 19 years….) and our food is the best in the world! AND i love you. so how can you refuse? bring the kids. <3 my treat.

    • I would love to visit. Maybe we can figure it out for this year.

      • jungleful

        excellente! let’s make a plan!! looking forward to this!!
        my contribution to the manifesto is this…”90% is showing up”

        ps, i promise to “show up” more to your blog. i usually just read your emails which i adore. thanks.

    • aconite1

      what makes you think “our food is the best in the world” ?

  • Truthinlife

    “Don’t cuss, it either shows you are unintelligent or classless.”

    • I always wonder about this. Everyone has a different line in the sand about language depending on how they grew up, etc.

      • Truthinlife

        One paradigm for communicating is to explain things so that a child could understand. If this is true, you would not want to add profanity. Additionally, if a lady is present…. As a father (and a 280 lb father at that), if someone uses profanity in front of my daughters, they will be entering into an enlightening discussion with me.

        • jungleful

          i would never swear in front of a child. but as a born and bred daughter of new jersey, i enjoy flinging the f-bomb around from time to time for emphasis. it’s just part of the NJ/NYC venacular. and i completely understand that NJ doesn’t “travel” well. so i have learned to adjust my verbal expression in front of sensitive ears.

          • Freebird96

            Been married 25 years, and my southern husband still doesn’t understand this! Thank you for making note of how we NY/NJ’s are “unique.” :-)

        • enlightened1

          So instead of language or reason to influence someone, you’re going to use your physical size to intimidate them? You sound like a 280 pound blowhard that has to rely on fat instead of facts to deal with other human beings…that’s a paradigm for you to consider.

    • I think that’s bullshit.

    • Stimpy

      This won’t make me any friends, but I would say the same about tattoos.

  • Jeff H

    “Money is a renewable resource.” It’s a means to an end, not an end in itself. If you’re out of it, go do some hard work and make more. Sitting on your ass whining that you don’t have any, doesn’t bring you any.

    • midnight-ivy

      “Sitting on your ass whining that you don’t have any [job], doesn’t bring you any.”
      Well, you should take into consideration that there are plenty of people who are too old, too handicapped or just not qualified enough to get a job. Or recover a job.
      There are lots of people who would LOVE to earn their own money, who are prepared to give up a lot for that, but who are simply being told. “Sorry, you are not qualified.” Or too old. Or whatever.

      • Jeff H

        It wasn’t a shot at people who aren’t in control of their own circumstances, and editing my use of the word “any” to imply that I meant “job” is just stupid of you. He’s talking about a personal manifesto – guidelines that you follow to keep you on track. That’s advice my dad gave ME, and I use it to motivate ME. It’s all about ME. But if it makes you feel better to try to imply something else then knock yourself out. (By the way, I’ll have a double latte. At least I assume you’re a 28 year old barista who blames other people because you can’t get a “real” job. How does it feel when people try to label you in a condescending way?)

  • John W

    “If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” Not my words but I keep them close.

    • Nice one. I think that one saying encapsulates the process of mastery. As well as the process of forgiving yourself on the inevitable ups and downs during the path to adulthood.

    • Great one John. That thought gave me a huge ignition for the week. Thank you!

    • Mary

      John — This is one of the epigraphs I use in my book. I wish I knew who first said it.

  • I got this from an interview:

    “I wanna succeed as bad as I wanna breathe”. I put it on the top of my daily to do list.

  • Nametag Scott

    brilliant. thanks james

  • Live long and perspire.

  • Michael Rasmussen

    Be Appropriate && Follow Your Curiosity
    I derived the be appropriate from following my curiosity to find out why an author named a character Hosea. What a way to be a prophet!

  • jim palmer

    -Don’t make promises you can’t keep; say what you’re going to do and then do it.
    -The most valuable commodity is time; save it, waste it, use it wisely according to your own schedule. Don’t let others dictate how your time is managed.
    -Loyalty & dependability, there’s no price that can be put on this.

  • Andrew Ramponi

    Inspiring reading, it felt like a poem, or maybe a series of haiku.

  • Daniel W

    Hi James,
    I just wanted to let you know how much I have loved reading you book. Choose Yourself was so helpful to me as a aspiring author. I also have enjoyed reading your blog. I am currently working on a few longer books, but for now I am giving away copies of my short stories/books on Amazon. I am trying to write everyday and choose myself. You are a true inspiration for me. Thanks for writing that awesome book and I look forward to reading more of your blog.

    To find my short stories/books free you can visit my website: http://www.danielwallock.com/ or my amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Daniel-Wallock/e/B00KCF5W6K/

  • “We have only ourselves to blame: a voter’s manifesto”
    http://judefolly.com/blog/2014/2/20/we-have-only-ourselves-to-blame-a-voters-manifesto.html

  • “I will do one thing that scares me each day so I can die without regrets of not taking chances due to fear.” I figured I would start here by posting one from my manifesto. Thanks for being a great thinker and mentor James.

    • aconite1

      stellar

  • Your manifesto is longer than I thought it would be but it’s nice that you have it to fall back on during hard times. At least you have one. Here’s hoping you feel better after messing up, and things will turn around for you.

    It’s been some time since I commented on your writing but this one here is what got me “Life is worth living only if it’s worth loving.” Man, that is major! Speaking for myself…although I wouldn’t necessarily say I love my life, I am aware that I don’t hate it much either. Maybe a lot of people fall somewhere in between those two extremes, settled in an area of simple tolerance .

    • Joanne

      Nicole, I am not sure how old you are, but living in simple tolerance will catch up with you as you move toward midlife….a resigned life will become intolerable when you realize you do not have as many days left in front of you as you have behind you. I am waking up to that fact, and today I quit my six figure passionless job, as tolerable has become intolerable and I am getting clear that this is not what I have been put on this earth for. I am taking a year off to write, travel, find my passion again, and move out of resigned to loving my life…..just the thrill of taking a risk is waking me up again!…..I want to find the “extreme” end of the love-my-life-scale….this is MY journey, and the clock is ticking! I am choosing myself and it is scary but exciting…it feels ALIVE!

  • oneroad42

    “It’s good to be average” f**king sweet, I like your perspective. Too often in the manosphere is there this push to be “alpha”. But the push is better than the focus, as you said.

  • When I am at the end of my life, I will not regret the things that I did do or the lives that I touched. Only regrets will be the things that I didn’t do. Thinking about that gives me perspective everyday and helps push me to be the best ME that I can be. Thanks for the post!

  • talksicknoodleboy

    James when are you going to do your standup?

  • Cindy

    Hi James,
    Thanks for sharing this. I’m fascinated by the idea of a personal manifesto and have been maintaining one for quite some time now. My sources of inspiration come from well-known figures, anonymous heroes, and even myself from time to time. Here are three items from my list that will hopefully others out there:

    1. There is instant gratification and there is constant gratification.
    2. Having compassion for all includes having compassion for yourself.
    3. The candle doesn’t lose anything from lighting another candle.

    • Dubem Menakaya

      I love these!

    • I love them too. #3 is a bomb.

  • Glow in Peace

    The power of thinking, feeling, caring, and communicating people. Reading these comments is like watching a village being built. Nice work.

  • Jeanick

    Awesome as usual my friend!!

  • Windsurfer

    Don’t take yourself too seriously. “The graveyards of the world are full of indispensable people”.

  • Dubem Menakaya

    I wrote one of these years ago, never kept looking at it though! This has inspired me to write one again and keep it on my wall. It’s always important to remember your core essence, especially when all the bullshit in your mind gets in the way!

  • Sandra

    Hi James- I’m an avid reader and check in regularly to see when you’ve posted. I’m sharing something that was sent to me years ago and it resonated. I read it when I need a reminder that life has ups and downs and that is the journey. Thank you for sharing your blog!

    May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.

  • Anne Hedonia

    James,

    I’ve read a lot of your posts. The pain you describe is all too familiar, so with this regard, your writing comforts me, because I know you would understand how I feel. At the same time, I am horrified by you. I am horrified by our similarities.

    Beneath it all, I sense such fragility, such manically helpless prayerfulness, such desperation in the way you write and the way you live your life. It terrifies me.

    I’ve tried all my life to be strong and fair and good. Above all I try always to be brave. Yet there is no clarity. I feel no ground beneath me. I’ve fallen so much I feel broken all over. I hurt.

    Yet I look at the world and I see trailblazers who run ahead, charged with certainty. What is it like to be sure? What is it like to have a quiet mind? This can’t be all. You can’t be all.

    • Trent

      James please respond.

    • Gunhild

      This is poetic.

    • your mama

      This is powerful stuff, Anne.

    • K

      I hope you’ll write a book, Anne. I’d love to read it.

    • Anne, you are not alone.

    • the_obvious

      He’s spent his life, ironically, working desperately hard to get rich quick. That’s why there’s so much volatility and so much pain. He knows it’s self-inflicted.

    • Anne, I’m going to guess that on the better days, you’re one of the trailblazers and when you wrote this, you could’t see that. It happens to me, too– the fact is that all of us “unquiet” types, we will never get that security that you describe, and we will keep falling all over the place not only hurting ourselves but looking absolutely fucking ridiculous in the process, to boot.

      And people will laugh, and we’ll hurt and then (at least in my case) After a few days or some-such, I stop giving a shit, and honestly, that’s a source of tremendous power as is the genuine sense that you are responsible for your own circumstances because you made your own choices to get there. I’d rather fuck up a series of important choices than live under someone else’s dictat. From what I and a few doctors can tell, I’m a very high functioning autistic person. I work with someone who is a bit off, himself, and you know what?

      I’d never trade the insight our madness provides for normalcy. I’ll never be normal, most people will never get me, and FINALLY, at long last, I’ve realized that I prefer it that way– at least, I’d never in a million years trade away my “handicap”…. pssht– how about superpowers! I see every problem differently from them, and I tend to pick up on the correct sub-problems and can get at the meta-problem behind them. That said, I’d love to be able to relate to others more easily. I suppose my point is this:

      If what you do satisfies you, and no one is going to kill/imprision you in retaliation for your doing it, then merely doing it is a win for you. Don’t let the reality that everything is always in flux get you down– instead, sit back in the hot tub of life and let the currents whoosh about you.

      And what the hey– why not:
      If anyone wants to talk about anything, any time, here’s my number:
      +84 167 789 6421

      Anyway don’t let others label you, and normalcy is highly overrated. We only get to enjoy the unique pleasures of the high points of our lives because we’re also prone to the lows…… **And the lows do suck**.

  • Look inside.
    Ask, “Is this what I lived for?”

    I’m a cancer survivor and this second one is another way of saying, “are you choosing yourself?” I only recently read your book by that title and loved the brevity of the saying.

    You don’t have a copyright or trademark on it, do you James? :) I’ve started using it to emphasize the importance of self to other cancer survivors.

    Did you that people categorized as Type C personalities (people who often internalize frustration, are non-assertive and tend to appease others to the pont of self-effacement) are at high risk for cancer? Many studies have shown a definitive connection, and I can tell you from the work I do with cancer survivors that the type fits WAY more than you might expect.

    I’m personally guilty of being more like a Type C than I’d prefer to admit. That’s why these two phrases are top on my manifesto.

    Thanks for sharing your self.

  • Robert Lenigar

    James, I cannot tell you how much I needed this post! My mother recently passed and I found it hard to move on. I appreciate that your always willing to put yourself out there without anything in return. I have found creating my own manifesto to be just what I needed to get in touch with myself as well as others. Thanks for bringing me back!

  • Billy Graham

    “Listen more if someone is in pain. Don’t solve. Just listen”

    Ouch. I’ve blown this one so many times, with others.
    As well as with myself. Do I sit with and listen to my pain, hurts and discomforts, or do I rush straight to the solution, or worse rush to escape?

  • James –

    Always love your writing, especially the style.

    I had the thought that the way you write often reminds me of your financial industry past. How? You write in brief, succinct sentences to get your point across. No excess flowery words.

    No filler. All killer. Meat with a bit of potatoes.

    If I had to make an analogy for your style, I’d say it’s like a ticker tape. Always rolling forward. Just the stuff you need to know.

    And a dash of humanity on top. =)

    Keep on.

  • Alonso

    This is pure trash. Pure gold. Pure diamond. Or Better if you Choose.

  • “I try to eat well. I see too many older people in pain because of poor eating decisions when they were younger.”

    I’m conscious about eating well now. Currently, I work with too many older people who are in pain and are disabled because of poor eating decisions when they were younger… and they still eat the same. And they’re in dementia, cranky, angry, depressed, weepy and take it out on those of us who take care of/work with them.

    Thanks for that reminder, James.

  • Blaine

    Great topic James.
    Just read your book. (Choosing yourself stories, Blind But Now I see)

    My values / manifesto developed over time. I have them written down.

    1.Sincerity – Say what I mean, mean what I say or say nothing.

    2. Acceptance – Accept peoples differences, embrace their strengths. Be Big. Do it. Live it. Avoid stupid arguments. no ever changes. or hardly ever.

    3. Humanity – Kindness, Compassion, Integrity at all times – especially under pressure!

    A quick note – I was sick for 10 years – these three qualities in some of the people around me made all the difference.

    4. Exercise Leadership – Sincerity, Clarity, Execution – Be the CEO of my life not just a business. It’s a practice not a title. Be the best at being the best ‘me’.

    5. Be Fearless – do the right thing. Be expressed. Exercise Judgment. Fear no one and especially not the little things i.e. making a call, a speech, being embarrassed, looking foolish. These are more crippling that say fear of tigers or sharks or aliens whatever – things that are unlikely ever going to be a factor.

    6. Ownership – Take action, use my initiative, be pro-active. Focus on solutions. Take responsibility. No dream left behind. Do what i can to be fully expressed.

    Note: I have found that Happiness is a pointless objective in life. Saying I wanted to be happy was just vague and never helped me at all. it inspired dumb activities like trying to quantify what happiness is. I think one definition of happiness is fluid depending on what your reality is at any given point in your life.

    When i got out of hospital after a transplant, nearly dying, of major complications my definition of happiness was being able to sit in the park on a bench a read a book. i swore if that all life had in store for me if i ever got out of hospital I would be happy.
    But as my energy and strength returned so did my imagination, drive etc that changed.

    Out of this I figured that for me to be happy – I need to be fully expressed in life. To me this means making the most of what talent i may or may not have to pursue the passions i had – do work i loved and love the work i do… and in doing that happiness is the outcome – Will i be happier when i achieve the results in some of these projects than i am now in the striving it – i don’t know. It will be nice to have money, a social life, a girlfriend etc.. but i think i won’t be happier, i will just be the same with more resources – it not like i will stop dong the work.

    7. Truth – Always. To myself. To others. Don’t give up my power. To my boss… anyone. Don’t lie.

    8. Focus – On what I can do, find alternatives for what I can’t. There are always Solutions. if I can’t see one it just means i probably don’t see it rather than it doesn’t exist.

    9. Execution – Get it done no matter what. Every time… any idiot can complain about their job, situation, life, whose fault it is, whatever … Most do.

    10. Beliefs – have as few as possible, be careful what i ‘believe’. Our beliefs define the size of the box we’re living in. I want a big box, in fact I don’t want to be in a box at all.

    Quick note: many of the beliefs i had.. up to my mid 20’s were from the society and environment around me, my parents, friends, the town, the school etc… when i finally realized that much of what i believed about the world, me etc.. was just a story of that environment or system and If i had grown up in a different country, with different culture, values, religion i would have believed whatever that environment prescribed – at least until i had the same revelation it was a revelation. opened new doors.

    I now strive to be belief-less… the less ‘beliefs i find i have the more open i am to new possibilities the less dogmatic I am.
    Half the beliefs i had in the past.. I had to change when more facts became available.
    I am happy to accept uncertainty about many things, and certainly about life – the only certainty I have found about life is that it is uncertain – I am comfortable saying ‘i don’t know’ or I ‘don’t know what is going to happen’ rather than well. i believe this because x y z or whatever and its better to believe something than nothing.

    11. Don’t be dogmatic – Listen, Learn, Teach , Share, Innovate – my best lessons have come from my worst mistakes, I try not to repeat them. Some of the best lessons have come from people I disliked – often because I was dogmatic about an idea perspective or because i was judging the person and not the message.

    A quick note: I used to be very dogmatic about somethings – when I look back now – I was wrong, stupid. You don’t know what you don’t know and not making an effort to remain open to this factor has usually been the reasons I have got into trouble.

    I use the 5K’s a lot now. [Competency scale]
    -what I know i know – gets less all the time.
    -what I think i know –
    -what I know i don’t know –
    -what I don’t know that i don’t know
    -what i better damn well know if i want to make a success of x y or z project , decision etc.

    12. Joy – Bring it, create it, share it. Take responsibility for your life and happiness. I’m not getting out alive, so make it count by finding,m sharing a little joy when i can.

    This works for me.
    I am rebuilding my life after a long sickness and losing a business and making a few key mistakes. I made the decision I did not want to f**k around any more with my life or live someone else’s view of what life should be at the expense of my own.

    These 12 practices center me… i try not to be dogmatic about them and be opening to refining them as i acquire more wisdom. (Hopefully. Usually just when I think I have some wisdom i get a new lesson)
    Say ‘no’ to wisdom :)

    They are serving me well so far. I wrote them a long time ago, actually before i got sick. When I have strayed or compromise them i.e try to accommodate a friend or colleague I found i just diluted myself and paid a price.

    Best of luck with yours.

  • Nuaym Lindsay

    You can learn if you’re talking James. It’s always situational. If your intent is to make someone laugh and you don’t then you need to learn how to something differently. Just a thought :)

  • Jeyaganesh

    James, Undoubtedly you are a very wise man. Your each sentence has a lot of meaning in it. You are very honest and humble when you talk about you in your writing which makes you a very big man. I think you should have selected this career very long time ago. As you said, it is never too late. Please keep up the good writing.

  • Vida Wright

    I discovered your blog through a friend and I feel it was all for a reason (whatever the reason is!). I love your writing and this one really touched my heart and soul. Thank you!