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. 

Giving ideas a second chance

Last year I read a book that seemingly everyone was raving about. I made it about 60% through it when the author took a sudden turn from logically progressing an argument to stating a badly formed rhetoric idea as truth. I put the book down and in a sigh resigned myself to reevaluate everything I had just read.

A few weeks ago, I was inspired to give the book a second chance. And I'm glad I did.

It turns our the rhetoric idea was a several pages long example of fuzzy logic, that the author deconstructed, without judging the idea. Just logically laid out. If it hadn't been for my automatic revulsion to the idea itself, I would've noticed that a year ago.

Skeptically questioning everything is essential to progress. But cynicism has a tendency to creep in. I'm glad I let go of this cynicism and explored more.

2018 Setup

I’ve always been impressed by people detailing their setups for activity. It’s part inspiring and part a treasure trove of tips. So with a head nod to Thord who inspired this one, here’s my setup going into 2018.

What I do

I mostly do consultant work, front end development and UX design. But I also do some product development, which means writing and creating content. So my time is split pretty unevenly between: Design, Development, Entertainment and Creativity. I figured these might be good categories.

Devices

Design & Development

  • MacBook Pro 13” (space gray, touch bar edition) — I spend 90% of my time on this machine. I wish I didn’t, but until I finish KodApp I can’t properly work on my iPad Pro. The MBP is great though, it’s no longer as overwhelmingly better than the compition that MBPs used to be. But this is still a fantastic machine.
  • iPad Pro 10.5” (silver) — my favorite device by far. I use it with two external keyboards, the Apple Smart Keyboard an Apple Keyboard in a Canvas cover, and the Apple Pencil. Can’t get enough of it! Everything I can do, I do better on the iPad. It’s just a much more limited device. And strangely, those limitations create both focus and creativity.
  • iPhone X (space gray) — I’ve had an iPhone since the iPhone 3G so you can imagine how well integrated into the ecosystem I am. The iPhone has captured more memories and facilitated more  opportunities in my life than anything else (except maybe the internet itself). I could not be happier. And th X is simply the most iPhone of any iPhone so far.
  • Apple Watch (series zero) I’m forever greatful to the Apple Watch for helping me catch my ex cheating, it had gone on for a long time and might’ve gone on a lot longer without the Apple Watch. But truth be told, I don’t use it that much. I wear it every day but I read the time, temperature and measure my sleep. That’s about it. When there’s a nicer watch available with these featres (there are some already but none have caught my eye) I’ll switch to that.

Creativity

  • iPad Pro 10.5” — Already wrote about this device, but couldn’t list creative tools without it. That’s how good it is.
  • Notebooks and pens — I’ve always carried around a ton of notebooks and pencils to draw and sketch on. While I’ve been trimming these down over the last year I’ve also added a new habit: Every morning I journal in my Field Notes with my 0.7mm black Muji pen. It helps me stay acountable and learning.

Entertainment

  • Kindle Oasis — I read. A lot. And this is the best reading device I've ever had.
  • Nintendo Swith — I've always loved gaming, even used to work with game design, and this magical console has completely rekindled my sense of childlike wonder for gaming.
  • Apple TV — Netflix machine.

Apps

Design

  • Paper by 53 — Probably the best sketching app ever. Use it with my Apple Pencil every time I start fleshing out ideas.
  • Figma — This is collaborative Sketch, in the browser. It's amazing, and allows you to prototype directly.
  • Keynote — Sometimes I have to present design, and I usually use keynote for that. Why? It's free and beautiful and easy to use.

Development

  • Atom — Fantastic text editor for all your coding needs.
  • Zeit Now — The best collection of cloud tools for developers I've ever used. Check out everything Zeit does, and never use anything but Now as a dev environment.
  • Digital Ocean — If, and it's increasingly rare, Zeit's environments aren't configurable enough.

Creativity

  • Field Notes — Great looking notebooks, for sketching and journaling.
  • Paper by 53 — Like I wrote above. Everything starts in Paper.

Entertainment

  • Spotify — For music, tried Apple Music, but I just missed curated playlists way to much. Before you say it, no, Apple Musics playlists are not even close.
  • Podcasts / Overcast — I try to live with defaults to understand users in all situations. But Apple Podcast app is just so bad I keep coming back to Overcast.
  • Audible / Kindle — I listen to books as much or even more than I read.
  • Twitter — The only social media I've ever truly loved. The company is doing everything wrong now a days, but I still love the free exchange of ideas. Wish someone could build a next generation of this.

Productivity

  • Bear — My note taking app of choice.
  • Things — All my todos organised in a  GTD system. Beautiful app that's a pleasure to use, all day every day.

Stuff

  • Fjällräven G-1000 — my daily laptop bag. This is basically my office.
  • AirPods — The best headphones I've ever owned. Always with me, always in use, always work.

That's it! That's all the stuff I use on a daily basis.

 

Getting rid of wish lists

I've been practicing minimalism for years. Slowly getting rid of things that I don't need. But I realized only yesterday that I'm hoarding clutter in my own head. Getting stressed for no reason. So I've decided to get rid of that stuff.

Yesterday I was talking to my friend Magnus about how he managed his reading list. You know, that list of books and articles you keep in three different places that always seems to grow? Those amazon wish lists that never seems to have a thing you want to read right now?

Well Magnus didn't have one, and that got me thinking.

I've been bookmarking all these books, articles, movies and TV-shows all over the place. But how much time am I actually spending enjoying things from these lists? To be honest, most of the time I stress about them and maybe once in a while I prune. So what is the point of keeping a list of musts when they were supposed to be entertaining?

This is the essence of minimalism. Your stuff ends up owning you. When you spend more time on upkeep of your stuff than on enjoying them. It becomes a ridiculous waste of lifetime.

So I'm getting rid of my lists. I will no longer store articles, I'll read them or disregard them. I'll no longer add books to lists. Either I want to read it now, or I'll come back when I feel like it. I'm not about to stop consuming media. Instead I'm going to consume what I want, instead of what I should want.

The goal is to get down to one or two things I'm reading. One thing I want to see next. The rest can wait.

There's never enough time as it is. Why the hell keep holding on to distraction?

Lifestyle design: iteration two

I’ve spent 20 days trying to follow the routine I set up in iteration one. It didn’t work.

Well maybe that is a bit dramatic. It didn’t work as expected, but I learned a lot about how time tracking an entire life really works. As usual, I’ve been slightly too enthusiastic. So I need to tweak my formulea based on what I’ve learned.

What I learned one: Sleep is hard

I planned to sleep 8 hours and spend an aditional 1 hour per day in bed to relax.
I mananged an average 6 hours of sleep and I felt like shit. I was lucky if I spent more than ten minutes relaxing before I needed to sleep.
This isn’t really a fault in planning, just an observation that I’m not disciplined enough. I need that sleep. It’s the foundation of everything else.

What I learned two: No one works 8 hours a day

Now when I say work I mean active time being productive. Since all my work is digital I’ve been able to track every minute of work. And let me tell you, whenever someone says they work more than 40 hours a week, what they really mean is they spend that time in proximity to work.

  • At 4 hours a day I work great. A lot of things get done and I’m nice to collegues.
  • At 6 hours a day I work sporadically. Some things get done but I get easily distracted and I’m a bit of a grouch.
  • At 8 hours a day I don’t work well. Little things get under my skin. My solutions are equally brilliant and idiotic. I’m easily angered and everything stresses me out.
  • At 10 hours a day I’m mad. Everything pushes my blood pressure through the roof, and little real work gets done.

Thankfully I also tracked the number of tasks that got done. I’ve edited out the small stuff and most of these tasks were about as much work.

  • At 10 hours: average of 4 tasks.
  • At 8 hours: average of 6-8 tasks.
  • At 6 hours: average of 12 tasks.
  • At 4 hours: average of 15-25 tasks...

Working less apparently forces me to focus better. A lot better. In fact I’m slightly shocked at the difference.

What I learned three: Media is not rest

I had 3 hours of play, or rest, planned per day. But after 8 hours of focused work, I ried watching a movie or reading a book. Both of which made me even more tired. Media, it turns out, is not really that restful.

We spend a lot of time with media, as relaxation, as a social event. So much time we take it for granted that we should. But at least for me, I’ve found that media doesn’t relax me at all. On the contrary, it keeps me focused and alert, spending more of my energy.

Perhaps more media is not the answer.

What I learned four: This is going to take forever

I can’t keep testing this slowly. Or I will never find a balance that works. Thankfully a tip from my friend Michael gave me an alterantive strategy.

From now on I will try to plan only the next day, and evaluate how it went each night. I’ll keep tracking my time and use Day One to plan and evaluate my days.

Lifestyle design: the plunge

Getting started was much harder than expected. After I got past the first wave of fear & procrastination actual problems reared their ugly heads.

"Problems"

Now there are a lot of people who complain about this word; problems. They seem to believe that by admitting there is such a thing, we stop and give up.

I’ve never believed that. I think we need to clearly state and define every problem and complication before we can do anything about them.

In my experience, the people complaining about this word are the same people who are least likely to solve anything. I might be wrong about this, but it is interesting to note that the larger and more sluggish an organisation, the fewer problems they seem to communicate.

Problems solved

I have things I need to deal with to really get going. The first of these major hurdles I’ve just left in the dust. I’ve managed to clean up my debt and I’m back in the black. It took some radical action, but I’m actually better off now than I have been in years.

Getting ready to celebrate

Happy celebrations

I also managed to celebrate my 31st birthday with a few of my dearest friends. We drank sparkling wine far into the night and both laughed and cries. There was also chocolate cake that might haunt me forever.

Friends

Thank you everyone, I really needed that.

Lifestyle design: beginning somewhere

This december my life changed dramatically. I transitioned from being a partner of the worlds best web agencies to what is essentially a normal, though mostly remote, developer job.
Then suddenly, my intended life partner left me. We came to terms again but after months of tears, talks and moments of happiness we finally parted ways.

So now I find myself in a situation usually refered to as a life crisis. But I’m not sure I would call it that.

I’m not crushed. Just a bit sad.

I am not powerless, but more empowered than ever before.

So what now?

Lifestyle design

I’ve always wanted to design my own lifestyle. To try and define how parts of my life fit together. And I’ve had some success creating an unorthodox daily routine already. But now is the perfect time to try something a bit more interesting.

I’m looking into every area of my life, to try to change basically everything, into something that is more me. I will post a step by step log here with my ideas, and my outcomes.

I have no idea where this is going.

But here’s my initial plan: Over the coming year, I will try to tackle one aspect of my life per week. Some might take many weeks. Some might take days. I expect most of these experiments to fail, but to be interesting nonetheless.

If you have any ideas, I’d love to read them. I have a few already and will post about the first one shortly.