In Search For Balance

Looking for balance in life, work, and relationships.

This Is My Last Post

683

Yes, you've read that correctly.

After 683 days of writing daily, I'm done.

For a while now I've felt like I reached a plateau. Like I hit a ceiling. Writing is not my main job, so I can't commit more time daily than I already do. Thus, my writing (if posted daily) won't get any better.

There are many stories I'd still like to tell. Many ideas yet to be told. I'm not stopping writing completely, but just slowing down. I've been building a solid writing workflow on the side, trying to polish my writing. But all of that requires time. I need time to edit, to re-write, to make my writing as good as it can be.

Publishing daily has taught me a lot. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity. And for y'all sticking around.

I'll still continue writing. Still going to write daily, but not publish daily. Probably a couple times a month.

Thank you. Let's see where this new journey takes us.

Inspiration

682

I often encounter people saying 'oh, I need to be inspired'. Or 'I'm in desperate need for inspiration, because I can't find it'.

Truth is, inspiration is everywhere, anywhere, and at all times. One can be inspired by anything, even the most boring thing out there.

Inspiration doesn't need to be found. It is there. All we need to do is open up. Create space for experience. For symbiosis.

One more reason to do less, have less.

So It Goes

681

In the magnificent novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut uses the phrase 'so it goes' 106 times.

If you're unfamiliar with Vonnegut's brilliant, piquant, sarcastic style, this might sound like nothing special. But, if you do, you understand how important of a stylistic device this phrase is. Vonnegut puts the phrase usually after a death or a tragic event happens in the book.

Here's a beautiful example:

The correct answer turned out to be this: 'You stake a guy out on an anthill in the desert-see? He's face upward, and you put honey all over his balls and pecker, and you cut off his eyelids so he has to stare at the sun till he dies.' So it goes.

Another one, probably my favorite:

On the eighth day, the forty-year-old hobo said to Billy, 'This ain't bad. I can be comfortable anywhere.'
'You can?' said Billy.
On the ninth day, the hobo died. So it goes. His last words were, 'You think this is bad? This ain't bad.'

Some people have skulls in their houses to remind them of the fleeting nature of life. Memento mori, that's what they say?

It's good to ask, from time to time, could it all end now? Most likely, it won't. But, if it does, it's better to pass away in peace.

Saying 'so it goes' doesn't imply ignorance. It's simple acceptance of the unchangeable. A coping mechanism? Why not. In the end, it's better to have a coping mechanism, not matter how obscure, than living in denial or blissful ignorance.

Because we have to accept reality to become real, right?

I think I'm going to buy a skull.

Tribalism

680

Seth Godin said that tribes are the thing we should be focusing on. In the age of the Internet, we're getting more into labeling each other, but not resonating on a common level.

Tribes can certainly be useful. For example, I'm part of an online community based around tools for thought. It's a tribe of some sort. And I like being part of it. There are definitely common denominators across all the tribe members, but still, in the end, we're all different.

When I hear the term "tribalism", something makes me tick. Tribes mean division. Tribes mean rivalry, enclosure, anti-holism. The path to success leads through unity built on diversity. Not tribalism. Ugh. But, after some more thinking, I started to turn around a bit.

How to build tribes without ignorance?

Just introduce the word reciprocity into common language.

Tribes are how we exist, and how we'll exist for a long time. There's nothing inherently wrong in tribes.

As long as they're humane.

Greatest Country

679

I like meeting Americans who think the US is the greatest country in the world. It's always a fun experience. I like meeting Poles who think Poland is the greatest country in the world. It's always a depressing experience.

In both cases there are interesting correlations between age, political beliefs and the belief that our country is the greatest or not.

Young Americans hardly ever believe that. A lot of them got fucked over by the 2008 crisis, post-9/11-paranoia and all that shit. More and more of them seem to believe America is the worst country, at least in the developed world. They want to escape. So they move to Europe, to Canada, to New Zealand, to Asia.

In Poland, the pattern is quite similar. With different nuances, of course. Here, it's more divided among Church-goers and the rest. People deeply entrenched in religion (a particular, perverted genre of religion) view Poland as a "Catholic stronghold", an island of God among a sea of evil. And for that very reason, they believe that Poland is the greatest country in the world. The rest of the population is either ambivalent or wants to move out.

The more people I meet from around the world, the more I'm starting to understand that there's no "greatest" or "worst" country. One can be happy anywhere, anytime. There are places struggling with war, poverty, disease. And it's certainly much harder to find happiness and relief there. But there's no place with no problems.

Let's take Sweden, for example. People from all around the world view it as an example of a rich, egalitarian, well-coordinated, healthy society. That's not fully true. Anyone who watched The Swedish Theory of Love knows this is not case. I wouldn't want to live in Sweden.

Be content with what you have, but do not stop improving it.

Don't Stop Pedaling

678

There's this steep ascent near my house I've been trying to conquer on my bike. It's 510 meters long and goes up 70 meters, which results in 13 percent gradient.

Many times in the past year I cycled near it, but never had the courage to actually go up. But, this week, I decided to face the challenge. By now, I've been there three times. Getting slightly better each time, but still need to stop at least two times on the way. It's excruciating.

The most important tip for anyone going up a steep ascent on a bike is this: never stop pedaling. It's the worst thing you can do. You lose momentum, and starting back up will be much harder than just going on. Even if you have to shift to the lowest gear, don't stop. Otherwise, you'll have to get off your bike.

What a beautiful metaphor of life.

I'll never stop pedaling. Even if my legs fall off.

Zettelkasten

677

Recently, a new wave of Zettelkasten-based note-taking apps emerged on the market.

If you're familiar with the topic, you definitely heard about Roam, Remnote, and my favorite, Obsidian. The basic concept of these tools is that digital notes get linked together to create a sort-of second brain, a personal wiki, where each note is a "neuron" connected to others.

Oh boy, did I jump into it right when I found it.

Roam was convincing, but ugly and unreliable, so I didn't even try to implement it long-term. But Obsidian? A beautiful, fast, smartly designed, flexible app. As a knowledge-worker and student, this should be a perfect place to take notes, connect them together, see information in context, as it should be. So I spent massive amounts of time building out my second brain. Linking notes together. It felt like I gained a unique superpower. I could think faster, more efficiently, every bit of information I ever needed was right there.

It never stuck for more than three weeks. And I tried this four times at this point. After a while, it always started to feel like a burden. Another system I had to constantly review. Update. Modify. On one hand, it was so frictionless, but on the other, just thinking about the sheer size and complicatedness of my second brain was intimidating to say the least.

I thought to myself: why? Am I so dumb I can't tap into this superpower? Is my thinking too basic for this next-level tool?

Our thinking rate is fixed. Becoming a better thinker requires time and practice. There is no way to "speed up your brain". Gain a superpower. Ha ha.

In the entire concept of tools for thought I personally always encounter a barrier. A point where my system feels to be more than me. It grows and grows and grows. It reaches a place where I can't envision the entirety of it in my own brain. A second brain should be supplemental, not fundamental. If I can't think without my second brain, or my second brain does all the thinking for me, then my primary brain is lost. A state in which I feel extremely uncomfortable, and plainly, unhappy. I feel like I've lost a part of myself.

In terms of digital notes, I always come back to Standard Notes. The most stupidly simple "second brain" out there. Supplemental, not fundamental. Not fancy. Not "feature-rich".

So I'm going to build a real zettelkasten, like the one its creators envisioned. A physical collection of boxes containing real, physical pieces of paper. A collection I can grasp, understand, manipulate in my own brain. And, most importantly, feel.

You get better by doing the work, not by having someone do the work for you.

Tired

676

I am super tired right now. Mentally, physically, even emotionally exhausted.

I cycled 50 kilometers this week. Read two books (551 pages, in total). Wrote 2512 words, excluding instant messages. Worked on numerous notes, research projects. Attended 11 hours of meetings and lectures. And I even had time to meet up with a friend.

I am fucking exhausted. Every part of my body is screaming for some rest.

But I'm feeling really good, too. All this exhaustion, all this tiredness, is just a byproduct of my work. It's a sign that I've done something. Whether good or bad - it's not for me to judge. But it's there. Another week of work, of progress?

Tired means progress.

I don't mind being tired.

Power Transfers

675

One thing I've been observing lately is how energy transfers itself from person to person.

We sort of do these transfers all day everyday. Every interaction is a transfer of some sort. The more effort you put into an interaction, the more can be shared. So it's easier to share through interactions that naturally require effort, i.e. real-world vs. online interactions. Typing texts requires much less friction, is much less of a challenge than, let's say, a real-world, person-to-person debate.

Another aspect is empowering versus disenfranchising - whether or not we're giving or taking. Even though I'm strongly against transactional conversations per se, sometimes it is interesting to observe this dynamic.

I've been catching myself lately on occasions where I was taking away - certainly not giving power to the person I was talking with. Sometimes out of frustration, boredom, or, most often, ego, as a privileged white hetero man, it's easy to control and strip power away from others.

All I can do is give. Even when I have nothing left to give from.

Bloom

674

I had this dream about walking through our garden, seeing my cherry tree blooming. In fact, everything was blooming in the garden.

The calendar tells me that spring is here. Yet, just yesterday, we had snowfall. Late March/early April is always a fun, but weird period of change. It's like a dance. Sometimes, the weather takes a step forward; towards spring. Other times, it goes back a bit, embracing the bitterness of winter.

Something wispered to me in that garden: we're not ready yet.

I'm not ready yet?

For something to bloom it needs time to grow.

Historical Thinking

673

I know quite a few people who don't like history. Either they deem it as unnecessary, or they're frustrated by how convoluted, ambivalent, and honestly, confusing history is.

I get that. For a long time, history was, for me, the most useless thing out there. Why should I care about that one stupid king who ruled my country centuries ago? He's not here now, so I won't care.

Probably, I'd still have this mindset if not for my history teacher, Mr. Bartek. He was genius. Or, rather, he could tell stories very well. He made it all interesting within itself. I got hooked. I didn't see the connections, the conclusions, but at least I was interested in the stories themselves. It was like reading good fiction books (which I loved to read at the time), but real.

Only much later, I started to see history as a whole. I have terribly good photographic memory (there are downsides to this, too), so I always remembered historical dates. And so, I could see history on a timeline, chronologically, in my mind. Everything started to gain context. Things that happened weren't just things. They were history, the chain of events that led us to where we are now, at this very moment.

There's incredible value in applying historical thinking to any field. Seeing things in context, on a timeline, analyzing the causes, the consequences. I'd say that this even applies to fields as abstract as mathematics, logic. One thing that always pissed me off while being taught maths at school was that they just showed numbers and things we could do with them. But, since we were always doing one section of the textbook at the time, there was no context. Just numbers. I never learned the connections. How different mathematical processes developed, based on already existing knowledge.

Nothing exists without context. No one is alone in their existence.

Eye Of A Needle

672

Sometimes, in life, there are moments that seem impossible. If you try to think about your life as a whole, about the things you've done, the things you still have to do, it can be overwhelming. Especially if you have more life ahead of you than behind you.

It's like trying to fit through the eye of a needle. So tiny, so thin. It is, truly, impossible to pass through. Growing up, getting old, finding love, passing that exam, getting that funding. All of these are eyes of a needle. Chokepoints. Challenges. Obstacles, some may say.

Even though I'm relatively young, I can't count all of the moments when I thought it was impossible for me to pass. To survive. And there are so many more ahead of me. If I try to breathe all of this in at once, I choke. Will I find true love? Will my work be impactful and honest? Will my loved ones be safe for as long as possible? Too much. Thankfully, in reality, all of this is spread in time.

These "eyes of a needle" are the most transformative, most revolutionary, most important moments of our lives. Yes, they might be stressful. Yes, they might make us feel like all of this is too much. Trying to squeeze through the eye of a needle is the most growth we'll ever experience. We have to shed unnecessary baggage, our ego, our overloaded minds. Just gather all of the incredibly powerful potential energy all of us have. And go. Take the first step, which will, inevitably, lead us to the last.

If you can fit in the eye of a needle, you can do anything.

ucho.jpg

Égalité

671

We live in an unequal world. That's a fact. I've been thinking about gender equality quit a bit in the past few days.

There's a limited number of voices that can reach the entire world. Let's say it's somewhere around 500. Only five hundred people who's opinions, beliefs, statements reach the entire world (whether it's hundreds of millions or billions - I don't know). And this number can't constantly keep growing - we all have just 24 hours a day. If 80% of these people are men (as it is right now), we have a jarring mismatch between the whole world (50/50) and this particular group of people with the biggest outreach (80/20).

It's not hard to find examples of patriarchic paradigms in every element of our society. Men have had, and still do have, incredible privileges over women. Anyone denying this is either blind to factual truth or benefiting from keeping this scheme going.

There is only one true, permanent solution. Men waiving their privilege card in favor of women. Letting your wife get that great big job while you take care of the house. Helping your mom write her first novel. Paying your sister's college tuition instead of buying yourself a new car.

Individually, these actions might not seem very impactful. But, when a critical number of men step down from their pedestal and let women take their place, we will achieve true equality.

Critique

670

This truly feels like a post I should've written ages ago.

Please critique my posts. That's the gist of it.

Even though this blog just passed the 100 000 word count mark, I still feel like a noob. English is not my first language, and so I often feel like the words I'm writing are not necessarily correct. I'm improvising every single sentence, every thought.

I do get messages from readers sometimes. So far, they have only been positive. And I'm incredibly thankful for them; there were times when praise was the only thing that made me keep going. Even though I do not know who or how many are reading this blog, I am grateful for every single message of support.

Constructive criticism is the path to mastery. There's always, in any kind of work, space for improvement. If there's a statement you do not agree with, or if you think my language could be improved, please let me know by shooting me an email. Or if there's an extra thought you'd like to share - please do!

I write for the sake of writing. But, right after that, I write for my dearest readers :)

I'd be honored if you'd decide to critique my work.

Groupthink

669

One of the most dangerous phenomenons of our society, in my opinion, is groupthink. It has been, sadly, part of what it means to be human for ages. Our desire for being in agreement with our peers, to hold opinions shared by those who we care about, often tramples our individual reason, our personal lucidity.

What worries me is how our increasing reliance on labels is magnifying the strength and occurrence of groupthink tendencies. If you are part of group A, then you need to believe in a particular set of values. Group B? Same thing. Even though, in some aspects, we're certainly becoming a more individual-focused society, I think it's safe to say that it's easier than ever to fall into groupthink.

Oh how often, when talking with somebody, have I asked them: why do you think A is true? And they replied: because X said so.

Not because they honestly believe that A is true. Not because their own reasoning tells them so. No, they believe that A is true, because someone else believes that. No matter how smart their "guru" might be, they're still, in a sense, devolving their responsibility to think to someone else.

I see two solid counterarguments to this. First, not everyone has the time and the capacity to think about everything themselves. Not everyone is a philosopher. Second, some say that groupthink may be useful in particular cases. For example, it is good that people trust vaccines and do not need to individually examine them.

As with almost everything, I believe there is a balance to be found. Independent thought is incredibly important. Our duty as co-habitants of this society is to consider everything of value carefully, looking at the facts, but not ignoring the beliefs. We are different and we will differ. Diversity is, and will be, our greatest strength.

How to reach a conclusion then? Compromise, my friend. Compromise is never a defeat, but a victory of humanity, dignity, and mutual respect.

Lack of plurality is a defeat.

Friction

668

My entire 'productivity system' is super simple. A paper Bullet Journal for planning, Standard Notes for note-taking and project lists, and a recent addition: Toggl for time tracking. As simple as it gets.

One thing that stands out about this system for people acquainted with the modern concept of 'productivity' is friction. There's a lot of friction in the system. Standard Notes doesn't have keyboard shortcuts. I have to manually move overdue tasks from yesterday's list to today's one. I can't link digital notes together. Absurd, isn't it? I'd benefit so much from using something better, would I?

It took me a lot of time, and a lot of systems-switching, to realize that friction is my friend. It helps me be more deliberate, more focused on what I'm doing. Of course, too much friction would prevent me from ever accomplishing anything, but the right amount of friction is truly a superpower. Friction makes me feel what I'm doing.

Friction means work. Friction means progress. Frictionless implies the opposite. A frictionless tool or system of any kind means no obstacle, no challenge, and, in the end, no growth.

Call me counterintuitive, but I'm going to look for friction in my life.