Using herd mentality to your benefit

You notice it every week; how suddenly everyone seems to be talking about that same thing. A new trend. A new thing, having its moment. But how often are these trendy topics valuable?

Now I don’t know this for a fact, but over the years I’ve noticed that trendy things are rarely, if ever, very useful. The trend usually preempts the usefulness. The real work begins when the trend is at its peak. Only after that do people discover, through trial and error, how to actually do the thing.

It will probably take a year or so until they turn around and can teach the rest of us how to use this, no longer trendy, topic in our own work.

This is good news. I think we can use this for our advantage. When I see something interesting I’ll simply write it down, and then google it a year later. By then the experiments will have been run and I can learn from the results. All that time I’m not wasting keeping up with the trend I can use to study and experiment on my own stuff.

The right project for the right time


“People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time—even when hard at work.”

Marcus Aurelius

This is something I’m thinking about today. I’m currently in the start of a new project, trying out ideas and looking for something sticky. And honestly, it’s getting me down. I’m worried, bordering on cynical.

What I’m building is interesting, bordering on fantastic, but is it the right thing?

Is this the important work? Is this the effort that will shape my life in the direction I want to go?

It’s hard to connect the dots looking forward. It’s easily looking back. Does that mean we can plot our course based on our recent history?


Creative time experiment result

In this post I outlined how I wanted to schedule creative time periods in which to work on projects instead of doing more goal oriented todo lists. The idea was that hopefully this would allow me to use my current excitement to get further instead of forcing myself to work on an old project.

Well it turns out that it is incredibly difficult to schedule creative time periods. I didn’t use the period once since I wrote that post. The times the period was allocated I was tired or similarly distracted.

Instead I find myself thinking about problems in exciting projects and writing down solutions to test when I have the time to test them. So maybe this is how I’ll work from now on.

Finding tranquility

“If you seek tranquillity, do less.” Or (more accurately) do what’s essential—what the logos of a social being requires, and in the requisite way. Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better. Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?” But we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well. To eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow.”

Marcus Aurelius, (translated by Gregory Hays)

If you seek tranquility, do less. Always ask yourself, is this necessary.

Words to live by.

“Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse

Over ten years ago I fell in love with Herrmann Hesse because of his amazing poem Allein. I actually made a print and had it on my wall for years. So I was excited to read one of his novels. Siddhartha is the story of an indian man living in parallel with the Buddha. Much like The Alchemist it tells a story of personal enlightenment from the perspective of a young man travelling.

It’s a short read and thought provoking. Beautiful prose. But I think I’m more likely to recommend The Alchemist to friends.

“Wisdom that a wise man attempts to pass on to someone always sounds like foolishness.””

— Hermann Hesse in Siddhartha

“Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

I was recommended this book by my friend Annelie, while discussing how to effectively rest. I wasn’t very impressed though. The book has some interesting ideas, and some good practical tips. But sadly they are hidden under a layer of personal anecdotes that so many American self help books are infested with.

““It is too easy, when rather tired, to fritter a whole day away with the intention of working but never getting properly down to it,” Littlewood said. “This is pure waste, nothing is done, and you have had no rest or relaxation.””

— Rest

I recommend getting the cliff’s notes or Blinkist version instead.

There was this gem though:

“beautifully empty hours that stretch out, untouchable by clients or colleagues or (especially) children.”

— Rest

Minding my zen

There’s a wonderful quote by Blaise Pascal:

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Blaise Pascal

While I’m not sure how much thermo nuclear war is solved by twiddling your thumbs, I’ve certainly noticed that I seem to have more problems when I’m unable to just be still and think.

The strange thing is that by just sitting still and thinking my mood lightens and the problems tend to disappear.

So when I’m so stressed that I’m unable to sit still. Simply sitting alone by myself is will cure me from said stress. It’s a quirky solution, and damned hard to do. But it works magic.

Alcohol

Ever since I was a student I’ve been slowly cutting down on drinking. Cutting because I can recognise adverse effects, but slowly because I’m not quite willing to stop the social lubrication.

This fall has given me a lot to think about though. As usual I’ve been frustrated and depressed as the sunlight has left Sweden, this happens every fall, but this year I’ve also noticed that alcohol is making all the negatives worse.

I’m tired, and a few drinks with friends will make me more tired in a couple of days following (yes days, plural, come back and scoff when you’re closer to 40).

I’m frustrated because my energy is low, and having a drink will make me more easily frustrated.

Still not quite ready to give alcohol up completely. But planning to limit myself at 2-3 drinks per week seems ever more exciting.