The Fantastic Life

Your Cheat Sheet for Direction

Most successful people have tips and tricks for how they got where they are. Some people even write entire books. (like I did with The Fantastic Life. If you haven’t picked it up yet, you can order it here.) And every now and then, someone makes it as simple as 1, 2, 3.

Drew Houston, the founder of Dropbox, has only 3 simple rules for millennial professionals or really anyone currently looking for direction:

  1.        Find your tennis ball – search for your passion and chase it obsessively. Just like a dog loves its ball, finding your passion is paramount.
  1.        Carefully choose your Circle – You are the average of your 5 closest friends.  Make sure they pull the best out of you. AND reevaluate these at least once a year.
  1.        30,000 – Most  people live 30,000 days. Make them all count. Every single damn one of them.

While this was written for millenials, I think it’s great for everyone. Making sure your tennis ball is still your passion, your circle of influencers have batteries included, and that you’re living life in full color, is for all of us. I took stock this morning – just  to make sure I was on the right path.

Rule #1 from my book The Fantastic Life: Know Your Stories
When you’re faced with a tough choice, you have to know who you are and what your story is. The only way you can make a decision that is right for you is if you understand how it fits into the larger context of your life.

Dropbox Founder’s 3-Point Cheat Sheet for Young Professionals

The billionaire entrepreneur boils down his wisdom to these dead simple points.

By: Jessica Stillman

October 11th, 2016


Life is complicated, which is why the best advice is often so incredibly simple you can remember it even when surrounded by the whirlwind that is everyday experience.

Take WayUp founder Liz Wessel’s best tip for 20-somethings, for example — it’s simply “say yes.” That might sound too minimalist to be helpful, but when you’re faced with a tough choice of whether or not to accept a new opportunity and your head is spinning with pros and cons, complex decision-making frameworks are going to fall by the wayside. You will remember two little words, however, and they might actually help point you toward a specific course of action.

The most useful mental models and rules of thumb, in other words, are often dead simple, which is why an interview Adam Bryant of The New York Times did with Dropbox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston earlier this year is so helpful (hat tip to Business Insider for the pointer).

In the course of the fascinating discussion, which ranges from Houston’s early computer obsession to his ideas about building a successful startup culture, Houston boils down his advice for ambitious young people into an incredibly simple if slightly quirky three-part formula: a tennis ball, a circle, and the number 30,000.

A tennis ball, a circle, and the number 30,000?

What could possibly be the meaning of this random-sounding list of things? As Houston explains to Bryant, these items represent his personal “cheat sheet” for those just starting their careers:

The tennis ball is about finding the thing you’re obsessed with. The most successful people and successful entrepreneurs I know are all obsessed with solving a problem that really matters to them. I use the tennis ball for that idea because of my dog, who gets this crazy, obsessed look on her face when you throw the ball for her.

The circle is really about the idea that you’re the average of your five closest friends, so make sure to put yourself in an environment that pulls the best out of you. And the last is the number 30,000. When I was 24, I came across this website that says most people live for about 30,000 days. So you have to make every day count.

Intrigued? Houston notes that he developed this “cheat sheet” when he delivered the 2013 commencement address at his alma mater, MIT. You can check out his complete remarks below for more details.

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