Etching patterns into your mind

Playboy: Why is the computer field dominated people so young? The average age of Apple employees is 29.

Jobs: It’s often the same with any new, revolutionary thing. People get stuck as they get older. Our minds are sort of electrochemical computers. Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind. You are really etching chemical patterns. In most cases, people get stuck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them. It’s a rare person who etches grooves that are other than a specific way of looking at things, a specific way of questioning things. It’s rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to really contribute something amazing. Of course, there are some people who are innately curious, forever little kids in their awe of life, but they’re rare.

We have to actively work on etching effective patterns. And we can never stop.

A handfull of great ideas for a better life

Some time ago Tynan wrote a list of life rules for Zen Habits. Perfectly in line with my current project of trying to discover what strategies or principles I should live by. This is a great post in it's entirety, just see this excerpt: 

1. When you say you’re going to do something, do it. I believe that without his word, a man is nothing. This rule applies to things I tell others I will do as well as things I tell myself I’ll do.

[...]

5. Walk out of movies, stop reading books, leave parties. If I’m participating in some sort of entertainment and I realize that it’s not going to be worth the additional time spent, I leave. The fact that I paid $10 and watched half of the movie is irrelevant. The real decision at hand is: how do I want to spend the next hour of my life.
— Tynan

Optimisation your life away

I've thought a lot about optimisation of the last decade, always looking for better tools, productivity systems, and efficient ways of doing many, many, things. Until a few years ago when I started thinking about over-optimisation instead.

I now believe I've been using optimisation as a crutch, to procrastinate from doing the important, but scary, things in life. 

Optimising up front is usually a bad idea, it's a worse idea for every day life. Optimising should have a clear outcome of freeing up time.  If it doesn't, maybe you shouldn't be spending your time on that?
Maybe that time is better spent on the real work, or life?

Leo said it better.

(Update: This is a life strategy worthy idea.)

Reaching any goal

Have you reached every goal you have? No? Than something isn't working, and that something is you. To do something you've never done before, you have to do things differently than you have before.

Losing weight, starting a business, being creative, everything demands a change of routines and lifestyle. You have to change.

Don't be afraid to throw out who you are. When something doesn't get us what we want, change is the only way we can get it, so embrace it fearlessly. Here's how:

  1. Disregard how you usually do something (or how you are, that's nonsense).
  2. Read about or talk to people who have done something.
  3. Try it.
  4. Do it all over until you succeed, or want to do something else.

This post is a part of my 6 month experiment of discovering strategies for life.

How to plan well

Today there are so many things to do that most of us are running just to keep up. So many obligations and so many things we want to do. There's just never enough time.

Minimalism and Stoicism has the answers apparently. But it's hard to find the time to get around to them.

This way to live our lives isn't working. Not really. We're constantly breaking plans and coming up late on deadlines. The truth is that we can't do it all. We can do anything, but not everything.

It's time to apply that knowledge to planning:

Don’t plan more than you have the energy for on your worst day. Stop trying to make it your best day.

Is it that easy? I think it may be. I've added it to my set of life strategies, and will try it out for 6 months.

Strategies for a successful life

If you are anything like me, you've read a ton of great books and articles about how to live well. Learned tips and tricks from masters about how to achieve what you want in life. But honestly, I've probably forgotten more good ideas than I remember. Some idea I've had to relearn more than once. Some would've made my life much easier if I had just remembered them. Which is why I'm so inspired by Derek Sivers idea of Directives.

Derek takes notes while he reads, when he finishes something, he summaries it. Then he takes what he's learnt and adds it to a Do's and Dont's list. The list becomes an ever evolving set of strategies to live a better life. I think this is a great idea.

As one his directives is to shamelessly imitate, I'll take that advice and start doing the same thing. Starting today, I'll post everything I learn and keep a running list of Do's and Dont's. I'll tell you how it pans out in 6 months.

The Cult of Enthusiasm

We live in age of overwhelming optimism.  Everyone’s life is maical, and every experience awesome. You can’t buy cereal without being promised a soul uplifting and life affirming spiritual experience of purest joy. And yet, people are unhappy. Why is this?

Optimists are right in being wary of negativity. Most negativity simply hides fear, it creates barriers where there are none, making sure we don’t try something because it can’t be done or because what would people think? Negativity is a sneaky way for us to make ourselves victims. Pessimism is useless, we should never be victims.

But at the other end of the spectrum is the almost maniacal optimist. The person who’s so enthusiastic at all times it’s is simply beyond reason.  Well, what’s wrong with that?

Forcing enthusiasm has two major issues, as the journalist Oliver Burkeman outlines in his excellent best seller The Antidote.

Fail at Life

Firstly it sets you up to fail. How we talk to ourselves about things has a very real influence on how we feel. It sets expectations on the situations we find ourselves in, and life will simply never be a barrage of awesome and amazing experiences. It can not be, because the human mind isn’t made to handle that. It would simply stop registering the good things. How many times have you been reminded to count your blessings, only to realize life isn’t so bad? By expecting daily life to be amazing, we’ll constantly face being let down or surrounded by haters. Not because the world is actually like that, but because we‘ve created an impossible expectation. 

Use it or lose it

Secondly it seems we actually lose the ability to experience real joy and happiness when we’re constantly forcing the simulacrum of those emotions. According to burkeman “fake it til you make it” is not just incorrect, but is actually the opposite of how your mind is built to work.  Counter-intuitively looking at things from a negative point of view, a bit sceptically or even critically, you’ll set yourself up to be positively surprised often. And prepared for the situations when you’re not. 

We should never limit ourselves with artificial barriers of negativity and fear. But if we want to experience real happiness, we also shouldn’t buy into the cult of enthusiasm. Don’t force enthusiasm, look critically at the world and enjoy the ride. 

Why social media is dying

I’ve witnessed and anguished over the decline of my favorite social media, Twitter, for years. Now it seems everyone is talking about the implosion of Facebook and all the algorithmic feed platforms like Instagram.

Today I realized just how much people crave chronological feeds of what people wish to say. I’m sure you’ve seen stories like this:

 It’s the traditional social media feed. The chronological text update from someone.  reinvented in the “disappearing story’s” popularized by Snapchat.

It’s the traditional social media feed. The chronological text update from someone.  reinvented in the “disappearing story’s” popularized by Snapchat.

It turns out that while social media is dying. The reason it exists in the first place is still just as valid:

 “Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation...” — Oscar Wilde

Whatever made these companies think it was ever about anything else?

 

Why minimalism is a meta skill

Cultivating a selective focus is the only way to make real progress towards your goals in life. This is an excellent article by James Clear based around investment advice by Warren Buffet. Advice doesn't get much better than this.

The key point is this:
Your odds of success improve when you are forced to direct all of your energy and attention to fewer tasks.
— James Clear

Staying awake to life

Call it mindfulness, call it happiness. Staying awake to the world is crucial to live a full life. Here are 5 excellent life tips by Sara Hendren.

Here is the hardest thing for many people about adulthood: Staying awake. That is, resisting the somnambulance that will grow like weeds over any state of habitual life, excepting acute crises. You have to actively invite experiences into your life that will interrupt the smallness of your story and the calcifying generalizations you make about the world based on your own private universe.
— Sara Hendren

Reading news is pointless and you shouldn't do it.

I've seen studies on this before. But never heard the argument quite so coherently stated as in this post from Farnam Street.

Being well informed isn’t regurgitating the opinion of some twenty-two-year-old with no life experience telling me what to think or how outraged to be. Your first thought on something is usually not yours but someone else’s. When all you do is consume, you are not only letting someone else hijack and direct your attention; you are also letting them think for you.
— Farnam Street

Poetry tips from the late Christopher Hitchens

I'm currently reading Hitch22, the amazing writer Christopher Hitchens self biography. And when such a great write refers to W.H Auden as the best writer of his generation, I had to read him. Well Auden touched my like little poetry ever has. Simply amazing prose.

I recommend you grab some tea and read Autumn Song, and if you can live with the bittersweet sadness of loss, take a look at Stop all the Clocks.

Personal style for the minimalist

I'm a tall white 34 year old man from Sweden. I've never been able to purchase clothes that really fit. I've bought custom tailored shirts for years.

Is it too early to just go old school, and wear suits the entire time? I've always been comfortable in classic outfits. It fits my personality quite well. And I've basically been using a personal uniform for ten years (blue jeans, white shirt, leather jacket).

I'd like to pair down. My wardrobe as much as the time I spend on outfits. Are suits a smart way to go, or will I be spending too much and drearily wearing the same thing every day?

 Classic style for gentlemen — or boring wage slave old farts?

Classic style for gentlemen — or boring wage slave old farts?