Looking for balance in life, work, and relationships. #1000 days because the first 365 were pretty easy.
96290 words
@balance_wtf

Artism

652

Art seems to be underapprieciated these days. Not that there aren't artists creating incredible work; art has fallen down the ladder of social importance.

Was it ever really up there?

To become a master in any field, one must strive to become an artist. Art, the process of creating new from old, is not exclusive to the traditional denotation of "art"; paintings, sculptures, movies, installations. A mathematician can be an artist, too.

Bridging the gap between craftsmanship and artistry is a great and important step for anyone looking to become a master in their craft. Learning the rules, using the tools, all that requires time and hard work.

Anyone can learn the rules, but not everyone can set the rules.

Be the one who sets the rules.

The Wind

651

The wind carries me forward.

Cleans the air, cleans the mind.

I like vast, open, windy spaces. Mountains, valleys. They give me a sense of conjunction. Congruence. These spaces provoke; they show the vastness, the potential, the dangers.

The wind can be dangerous. It can wipe us out. Every force can destroy. No force is worse than dangerous force.

We've learnt how to harness the force. How to draw power from it. Without obstructing, without destroying, living in symbiosis. That makes me proud.

Windy days is when I charge, like a wind turbine. Then that energy stays with me for windless days, which have always been harder.

The wind of change.

What You Know

650

We live in an unequal world, where not everyone has an equal chance. Some people have it easier, some have it harder.

Many of us have privileges; I wrote about them a few times already. But there's another privilege we often forget about: access to knowledge.

In theory, there is universal education. In theory, anyone with access to the Internet can visit any URL out there. In practice, knowledge compounds - the more you read, the more you listen, the better you get. Someone who had access to books as a child, will get (knowledge-wise) far beyond a person who started buying books once they became an adult. By age 30, one will have 25 years of accumulated knowledge, while the other only 10. Sure, knowledge doesn't only come from books, but the rule applies to anything else; online courses, private lessons after school, open lectures at museums.

Once you know where to look for knowledge, and have time and space to discover, the process will be much simpler. It's exponentiation, not addition.

It's important to remember, when talking with people, that they might've not had the same chance as you to discover knowledge from different worlds. Don't be mad when they won't get your point; don't lash out at them if they don't see your connections.

Bridge the gap, don't widen it.

Improvisation

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We're often afraid of total creative freedom. Most of us, when presented with the opportunity of 'roaming free', default to going by the script, or not going at all.

No matter the type of creative pursuit, going by the book provides us with a shield, gives us protection from possible failure. Minimizes risk. Seemingly, abiding by the rules, even rules set by ourselves, strikes a balance between expression and safety. Nobody wants to trip, especially when others are watching.

Studies have shown that when we're improvising, our pre-frontal cortex, the part of our brain responsible for executive functions (planning, decision-making), significantly lowers its activity. When we 'roam free', our brain turns off its own control mechanisms.

If we, as humanity, would always be afraid of not going by the book, we'd never get to the point we're in. Copernicus would've never dared to question geocentrism. Da Vinci would've never explored new art ventures. MLK would've never delivered 'I Have A Dream'. (The speech, at least its finale, was improvised on the spot).

Open the floodgates. Flood your mind with novelty.

Dignity

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Dignity is an interesting concept. It's constituted by our humanity, the simple fact that we are human. It's the right to be respected, valued, for our own sake. To be treated ethically.

One interesting observation I recently encountered talks about how 'group dignity' is a much more fragile concept than 'individual dignity'.

Individual dignity is granted by the fact that we are human. A fact no one can undermine. Group dignity, on the other hand, is granted by social importance. Different social groups are perceived as less/more important, less/more valuable, less/more fragile. Doctors are more respected than street cleaners. Teachers get more credit than store clerks.

This results in under-appreciated groups feeling side-lined, left out. That lack of perceived dignity shows up in unionizing efforts, protests, disobedience etc. If you're a politician, and you want your opponent to loose, all you have to do is portray them as someone who is degrading a key part of their electorate. Trick number one in every populist's handbook.

As an individual, it's important to separate these two. Group identity is not equal to your individual identity. Both are important, both need to be respected, but they are not the same thing.

You => Group. Not the other way around.

Feelings-Based

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Yesterday, I participated in a CreativeMornings event with Jason Fried, the founder and CEO of Basecamp.

There was one thing that caught my attention in particular: someone asked Jason if they have goals, as a company, do they use OKRs, KPIs, etc. Jason replied: no, we've never had that. We are a feelings-based company. Whenever we feel like something is right, we do it. When feel it's wrong, we don't. That's all.

Wow. That's a heck of an approach. This got me thinking: how often are we not listening to our feelings, when we should be? Especially in the realm of work.

Truth is, goals, OKRs, KPIs cannot possibly reflect us, our work, holistically, truthfully. They are synthetic metrics, numbers designed for comparison, not realism. The only true metric of your work is how you feel about your work.

All the rest is just noise.

Clubhouse

646

So there is this trendy new social media app called Clubhouse. Instead of being based on text, images and video, like most social networks before, it's centered on audio. You can join "rooms", where you can talk with people, like on a big group call.

The concept itself is quite good. I like audio. Heck, I've been hosting and producing podcasts for two years now. I also love the casual chats we're having with friends on our private Discord server. Video is good for more "official" stuff, but nothing beats audio-based communication for on-the-go random encounters.

The execution, is, well, interesting. While the app is designed and built quite well, the content on there is not very good. Because anyone can talk about anything, anytime, the quality of Clubhouse conversations is not high at all. Every room I've popped into so far featured an incredibly unproductive, uninteresting, and, frankly, boring conversation. Even when I participated in rooms with people I generally like listening to, it was meh at most. (Sorry Jason Fried).

We are already over-connected. We don't need another global platform multiplying our connections by a large number. Want to talk with friends? Open a Discord server. Want to listen to interesting public individuals? There are thousands of webinars happening all the time. When you keep stuff private, you're rich. When everything is public, there's not much of you left - you're poor.

Probably going to close my Clubhouse account in the next few weeks.

Endings

645

Daft Punk announced their split after 28 years of working together.

What a bummer. I've been waiting for a new Daft Punk album for so long. And all I got after all this waiting was an eight minute video telling me they've ceased working together. Sad.

But another part of me is kind of proud. Proud that they were bold and transparent enough to end things officially and gracefully. Instead of keeping the thing semi-dead, they decided: it's better to end.

It's hard for us to let go of things. It's hard to say goodbye. Especially when we've put a lot of work into something. Putting an official end to something requires more work than letting it linger on. But it frees us, lets us move on, and gives the "thing" proper respect.

Sure, the endings will be bittersweet, but at least they won't be tasteless.

Untethered

644

A month ago I said goodbye to my smartphone. It was one of the best decisions I made in a while.

During this past month I:

  • Read five and a half books
  • Watched four movies and one four-part documentary
  • Spent 30% more time with family
  • 20% more time with friends
  • 90% less time on social media

Getting rid of my smartphone has made me feel untethered, in a way. I am free from the constant demands of being always connected, always online. When I go on a walk now, I don't listen to podcasts. I listen to the birds, the trees. I listen to myself. When I'm hanging out with friends/family, I don't pull out my phone when I'm bored. I can't. I'm always present. Or, when I'm traveling by public transit, I'm reading books, because that's the only option.

I consider myself a technologist all the way. Technology can be amazing. But, when technology is always with us, the law of diminishing returns kicks in. A life without a smartphone is a life in the present, with margin, without noise.

Everybody should do this. We already know that it is possible to live happy lives, do great things, without everyone having a supercomputer in their pocket at all times.

Maybe it's worth coming back to those times.

Compassion

643

Don't know if it's just me, but I think we're forgetting about compassion.

A while ago I wrote about reciprocity. Compassion, a similar concept, is about "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it". So it's about helping other people, helping with their distress.

It's hard to help without ego, but there's no place for ego in compassion. It needs to be real, honest, to exist. It can't be polluted with ego, because then it stops being compassion - it turns into using others.

Too much compassion can bury someone, sure.

Too little compassion will bury us all.

Slow Resolve

642

I'm not good at waiting. I've never been.

Slowly, I'm starting to learn that the best things take time to resolve. The "quick and easy" is not the "satisfying". It's appeasement, not satisfaction.

Excitement builds over time. Clarity builds over time. To reap the benefits of compound interest, you need time.

All the good things about life need time. Rushing is a fool's job. When we let things resolve slowly, naturally, they bloom in their fullest forms.

The best orchestral pieces are longer than shorter, because they need buildup, time to resolve beautifully. The greatest endings come after a great story. A great story needs time to develop.

The fruits need to be ripe to taste good.

Messy Mind

641

I recently watched 10 Years With Hayao Miyazaki, a documentary about the life and work of the legendary anime director.

I wasn't very familiar with Miyazaki's work before watching the doc. I've only seen Spirited Away before 10 Years. In between watching the four episodes of the documentary, I caught up on a few of his films.

This Twitter thread features a few interesting snaps documenting Miyazaki's creative process. It's messy, it's unorganized. As an aspiring artist myself, I can confirm that the creative process is indeed messy. Scott Belsky wrote a book good book about it.

Often, when people start creating, they're afraid by the seeming lack of progress. Going in circles makes them nervous, they worry they'll never bring the vision to the world. Truth is, without all this mess, there'd be no creation. You need a mess, a pool to draw ideas from.

From mess the greatest things emerge.

The Stem

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Nobody loves the stem.

Everybody is looking at the flowers, oh how beautiful they are! So colorful, enchanted, almost. Oh, look, there's a bee right over there. Nature is beautiful, aye?

But the stem? It's nothing compared to the flowers. An ugly green "stick". Thin, hard on the outside but moldy on the inside. The flowers are everything, but the stem is nothing.

But there'd be no flowers without the stem. It's crucial in any plant. Like the roots. At least the roots are underground, but boy they ain't pretty.

We don't appreciate the "stems" of our world. The connection-makers. The helpers. The people, the things working in the background to make our world better. To let us bloom. We only look at the flowers, the end results, the shining stars.

There'd be no flower without the stem.

Returns

639

When we move forward, building the next version of ourselves, we have to leave things behind. Places, people, habits.

The process of returning, coming back is very interesting.

While I'm all for personal growth, moving on, I do believe that occasionally returning to pieces of your previous self is incredibly valuable. There might be things that actually work for you now. They might've not been working in the past, but they might work now.

The "oh, I tried this before" mindset is a flawed one. Sure, you did try it before, but you were a different person back then. As we change, our needs change too. Return to the good, return to the bad.

Never discount things from the past.

Simple Life

638

It's depressingly hard to live a simple life.

Everything seems to be so complex, so advanced these days. It's hard to exist without a smartphone, without social media. You need to do your taxes, pay your bills. There are many social responsibilities, even more work-related ones.

Living a complicated life is easier in a sense. To live simply, you have to put all this work into reducing noise, simplifying, decluttering. This can truly be exhausting!

Why do we have to do more to have less?

Maybe you've heard about FOMO - the fear of missing out. But there's also JOMO - the joy of missing out. Once you un-hook your brain from the "having more" mental model, you'll start to notice how joyful having less can be. You'll feel joy after closing your social media, missing out on unnecessary social engagements, not going shopping this Saturday too.

A simple life is a better life. You can experience every little thing you do much more deeply.