Looking for balance in life, work, and relationships. #1000 days because the first 365 were pretty easy.
86909 words
@balance_wtf

Lagging Behind

603

I've been lagging behind with writing daily this past month. I even wrote about it already.

Even though I truly did slip up in December, I kind of intentionally continued to not write daily for a while. As you can see, I still wrote posts for every single day. But, I didn't necessarily write them on the day. Rather, in bulk, few at a time.

Building good habits is the best way to grow. And, surely, I'm very proud of the daily writing habit I've built. I've said it before and I'll say it again: creating this blog has been one of the best things I'v done in life.

Yet, sometime in October, I started getting this feeling that the habit is controlling me. Because I've been writing daily for so long, I had it "engraved" in my identity. In a way, I couldn't break away from it. I'd sacrifice sleep, time with friends/family, just to not break the chain.

I wanted to prove to myself that I control the blog, not the other way around. Would I still enjoy writing after breaking away for a while? Would I enjoy it enough to catch up?

Yes.

Walking In The Snow

602

It finally snowed for real here in southern Poland. When I was younger, we had snow for two months solid. But now, a week seems impressive.

Here's how it looks 500 metres from my house.

Walking in the snow is an interesting experience, to say the least. When the snow cover is thick, but not too thick - somewhere between 20 and 50 cm - it can be considered dangerous. Everything is covered, so you can't really see what you're stepping on. There might be ice, rocks. A frozen puddle. A hole. But, the cover is not deep enough to protect you from these obstacles.

Oh how often, metaphorically, are we walking in snow? Barely seeing the road, not knowing about the dangers that may come? Blinded by all that white?

Gotta bring snowshoes next time.

Peace And Prosperity?

601

Here in Poland there's widespread admiration for English-speaking countries with high standards of living, like the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand. We've been enamored with America since WWII, when Allied forces freed us from Hitler. Later, that sentiment grew as the U.S. helped abolish the Iron Curtain (especially Reagan). And now, millennials are enchanted by prosperous countries like Canada and New Zealand. We just can't fathom how these countries are prosperous, diverse, and majestic at the same time. Poland surely has all these qualities too, but is seems like those countries have them at 100%, which seems impossible.

Where did Canada get its wealth from? Natural resources. How did they get them? By pillaging, murdering, and torturing the native population.

What we, and drastically large amounts of Americans/Canadians/Australians/Kiwis don't understand, is that all this perfection came at a terrifyingly high cost. Entire cultures got vanquished in the worst possible way. They say the Holocaust was the worst crime in humanity's history - and I agree. But we can't forget about the annihilation of thousands of uniquely distinct people groups brought forth by European colonization.

My country never colonized anything. But, as part of the Old World, we're all, in a way, responsible.

Going to 100% on all metrics cannot be achieved without terrible sacrifice.

And, to be honest, all of this makes me sick of "100%".

One More Step

600

There is this story about hydra, the animal.

It seems to never die of natural causes. Cut it in half, you get two hydra. Cut it in four? Four hydra. It has a stunningly large amount of stem cells that are constantly re-building its body. We kind of suspect that, like all things, hydras do eventually die. But, since we haven't witnessed it thus far, we can consider it immortal.

Human life, one can say, is all about addition. We're born naked, with no identity, no knowledge, no power. All we have at that point is the ability to learn, to gather, to grow. We add on new things onto our fragile self. With every day passing by, we're becoming more of a person. Richer in experience, knowledge, respect. Richer in existence.

But all this massive growth leaves a trail.

A trail of memories, experiences, people, places. Just like our body is loosing cells as we get older, we're leaving behind pieces of ourselves. Every movement has an impact. Every action is recorded in the Universe's transient blockchain.

We may all be gone in a hundred years. But, the trail we've left behind will still be there. Even if only remembered by the trees from our backyard. Those tiny specks, once part of our integrated being, will populate the Earth for others to pick up.

In a sense, we're all immortal.

All we can control is which specks to leave behind. Or, rather, how to leave them behind. Some people take photos, others write songs.

Some people write.

As I go along the path of life, pieces of my existence are being left behind. Even if no one will ever pick them up again, I'm glad to know they're just there.

Solidifying my fragile and wicked immortality.

Go on; take the next step. Just for the sake of leaving something behind.

Sophisticated Tools

599

I know a few "productivity gurus". People who use fancy software, hardware, "life-hacking" to make their lives more productive, more effective.

Following these people and their "techniques" turned out incredibly exhausting for me. Managing and just acknowledging their existence was taking a toll. What promised to be a solution to a better life turned out to be an obstacle.

I still see there's great benefit from giving just even a little thought to working smarter: the most traditional ways of working are, in some ways, dumb.

It took me a while to find a balance. I use powerful tools, but only if they are simple. I work on a single screen. Have one window open at a time. All notifications turned off. All communication apps on one desktop, the rest on a second one. Always fullscreen.

And I often use paper; for planning, for thinking, for creating. I also have a whiteboard right next to my desk for quick "dumping".

That's all, no fancy scripts, Zapier-connected-monstros, calendars tracking every minute of my life.

Use the fruits of technology, but don't get buried by it.

Random Acts

598

I run this Discord server with more than eight thousand members. I've been running it for almost two years now; don't participate in it that often, but still steward the community.

In 2020 we spent more time online than ever before. Many of us had the absolute majority of social interactions through online channels. So, I thought, how could I, in the age of online, share some realness? Not just with my friends, but with random people. From the server I founded.

So I spun up a giveaway of some little nifty physical gifts: people entered, some got picked. Now I'm packing up postcards, stickers, tote bags, pins. Tomorrow I'll be sending two packages to Australia, one to India, Canada, and the U.S. There'll be 22 in total.

Is this taking precious time away? Yes. Does it cost money? Yes.

Is sharing a bit of truest humanity and compassion with random people worth it? Yes.

When it comes to spreading good: random acts have certain results.

Coup Attempt

597

Politics, as a thing, is not something I tend to like. I have my opinions, but hardly ever share them. I do read the news, but usually one or two times a week. And I often get them of off Wikipedia - seriously, it's a great news source. Un-biased, no-breaking-news-flashing-in-your-face.

You all know what happened today at the American Capitol. A mob stormed the building and tried to overturn the election results. Ok, let's call it what it truly was: a coup attempt.

I do truly understand some of the reasons why people voted for Trump. I don't agree with them, but I can understand them, at least in part. What I can't fathom is why they stopped supporting democracy, the thing that allowed them to elect Trump in the first place.

As an outsider, it looks simply tragic. My country knows how life without democracy looks like; let me tell you, it's terrible. In 1939, we got invaded by two dictatorships that murdered us, pillaged our houses, destroyed everything we were and we had.

Trust me, democracy is not perfect; but it's the best we can do. It's also extremely fragile.

Don't be the one to break it.

Too Thin

596

We, the doers, like doing meaningful stuff. Whenever there is an opportunity, we take it.

Unfortunately, it's easy to spread oneself too thin. And it's not just about commitment and time. I wrote about that multiple times already. It's also about emotions, relationships, thoughts.

Think of the literal meaning of spreading something thin; like butter on a sandwich. The thinner you spread it, the less will be in each place. That's exactly how you'll end up; there will be very little of you.

It's better to do less. Say "no". Be fully wherever you are. Miss out on exciting commitments, hangouts with friends, learning opportunities. Do things, but do them well.

Once you know your capacities, make sure stay within them.

Through The Mist

595

One last story from New Year's Eve.

I visited two friends this time around. There was a five-person indoor limit, and a curfew from 7pm on December 31st to 6am on January 1st. I don't think anyone actually got a ticket for violating the curfew. Nonetheless, I didn't want to get one.

I left the first friend's house at 6:10pm. I was on my bike. The route was pretty straight; there's a bike path along the river, and all I had to do was to cycle straight for ~8km.

It was dark - no problem! I thought. I had lights front and back, after all.

It was cold - no problem! I had warm sporting clothes all over.

Poor me didn't think about the mist. The river is in the valley, December is mist season in Poland.

I had 1 metre visibility, at best. I knew the route, but I didn't see a thing. At times, it was hard to know where the asphalt ended and the grass started. Thankfully there was no one else on the path - I'd crash into them.

This scared the shit out of me. I got through, but it was truly stressful. Especially knowing that the curfew was approaching. And I never lived through a curfew in my country.

That experience was a perfect metaphor of how life often is; a ride through the mist. We often think it's a well-lit road. While in reality,

we can't see shit.

Haven't Felt

594

Each year, during New Year's Eve, I felt something. A change. A new beginning. It was a similar feeling every year.

This time though, I haven't felt anything. Just a change of the date, nothing more. Maybe that was because I was physically exhausted. Or, maybe, I just didn't care.

This got me thinking about my relationship with time as a concept. About how, as a very "scheduled" person, I live from minute to minute, from hour to hour. At least, that's how I lived before the pandemic. I'd hyper-schedule and over-plan almost everything. Sure, it has its benefits. Benefits I, quite frankly, like. But, at the same time, scheduling everything brings a lot of extra weight to somebody's life.

Only this past year, actually, pretty late into the year, I saw the truth; I'm an artist. I can't schedule myself. The only times when I can be creative, productive, and happy are when I have space. A super-tight schedule leaves no space.

Creating more space allowed me to feel no stress.

Something I haven't felt in a long time.

Survivor's Guilt

593

As I shared in my year-end review of 2020, I suffer from survivor's guilt.

Quite a lot of bad things happened. Many people died. Many people lost their jobs, places to live. It was, truly, a year of tragedy. We can never forget about that.

I suppose my privileges played a role in this, but I just thrived this past year. Many things were tough, of course. But, overall, when I look at the "balance sheet" of 2020, there was more good than bad.

I did volunteer quite a lot of time. Helped people who I thought needed help during the pandemic. I truly hope that my work has helped at least one single person.

But, was it all just to make me feel better? Like, I was doing something in crisis times? Or, was it just purely for the sake of help itself, like it should?

Don't know the answer yet. Maybe don't want to find out. All I can do now is create a strong plan for helping and sharing what I have in 2021.

Giving away is part of The Search. Can't forget about that.

The Weirdest Year Ever

592

2020 was a heck of a year. Both in the best and the worst meanings of that word. A lot happened; both good and bad. A year of "shake-up", one can say.

This is my year-end review. At least the public version of it. What is private should be left private, after all. Nonetheless, I hope you find it an interesting read - I certainly enjoy reading year-end reviews of people I follow. Let's go.

Me

Health

This year I finally started to truly care about my health. Got off to a strong start in the first few weeks of the year by exercising at least three days a week and making more conscious eating choices. But, as it often happens, I suffered a terrible mental crisis in late January, and it ruined all the habits I've built. Desperately tried to get back on track afterwards, but only after a month of lockdown I had enough mental capacity to work on my physical health.

I went on 224 walks this year. By "walk" I mean just walking outside without a destination to get to. From March to August, I was going out every day. Walking helped me sort out my thoughts, feelings, expectations.

In July I started cycling again. A sport I once loved, but abandoned it for a more sedentary lifestyle. It was really good to be back on the bike. I cycled 756 kilometres from September 15th to December 31st. Here's proof. Using the bike as a COVID-free form of transport provided me with almost daily exercise through the second half of the year.

Overall, I lost 10 kg of weight and gained a lot of strength. I feel the best I've ever felt. Health has become my #1 priority, and, for the sake of health, I'm willing to sacrifice things I'd never sacrifice a year ago. Good.

In terms of mental health, the first and the second lockdown did provide a strong dose of anxiety. And it took a toll on me. But, all that solitude during the first one allowed me to deal with the anxiety and other stuff pretty well.

It was a year of letting go. Of control, of dominance, of submissiveness. Of tunnel vision. Especially in relationships. I finally feel at peace with everything and everyone.

As I said to my friend a couple of weeks ago: on the outside, I'm pretty much the same. I do the same things, speak in the same way, hang out with the same people. But on the inside, everything changed. Like someone swapped the kernel of my OS. Good.

Still, I suffer from survivor's guilt; so many bad things happened to so many people this year, while I thrived. Need to focus more on altruism and helping in 2021. Although, to my credit, I did volunteer a lot of time away in 2020.

Work

In terms of my studies, I didn't put as much attention to it as I did before. Focused on the things that bring value and interest me. It was hard to not completely ignore the other stuff, but I think I managed to strike the balance quite good. Well, the exams will verify that.

This year I finally put in real work into existing side projects instead of starting a plethora of new ones that would be abandoned.

Produktywny Uczeń got 11 new podcast episodes and a few new blog posts. I started photographing again.

This blog got 365 new posts this year. I didn't miss a single day. Woohoo!

Yes, sometimes I wrote new posts in bulk (mostly in December). But still, I consider my challenge of writing every day for 1000 days still going on.

People

Well, what can I say - I met some amazing people this year and re-bonded with old friends. Leaving the details for my private year-end review.

Less connection results in better connection.

Also, I hate texting. Please don't text me. Just call.

Environmentalism

I started to focus more on my consumption and environmental impact this year.

Greatly reduced emissions from travel, by a) travelling a lot less, and b) taking 60% of trips by bike.

In 2021, I aim to travel 70% by foot and bike, and go by train on trips over 100km. I will offset any flights I may take.

We installed solar panels in July, meaning that on a yearly basis, all of our electricity usage will be from renewable sources. We still use gas for heating in the winter.

Still using too much plastic. My guilty pleasure, vegan yogurts, come in plastic containers. Aiming to cut down my plastic consumption by 80% in 2021.

Content

Books

I read 24 books this year. Not as much as I'd like, but still pretty good. Joined a book club in November - it's been fun so far! Here are my favorite ones:

Non-fiction

  1. The Courage To Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi. Learned a lot through this book; it's a perfect blend of high-level psychology/philosophy with mass-level language and concepts.
  2. Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. Truly an eye-opening book. It talks mostly about business, but for me it's about so much more.
  3. Hell Yeah Or No by Derek Sivers. It's a simple book, written in plain English. A modern read for a modern world.

Fiction/prose

  1. A Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski. A powerful piece by the Polish master novelist. Incredibly delicate and transformative insight into the mystery of life.
  2. Flights by Olga Tokarczuk. She truly deserved that Nobel Prize in Literature.
  3. 100 Years Of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Incredible piece. Would love to read it again in Spanish.

Podcasts

Listened to too many podcasts this year. Here are my three favorite episodes from 2020:

  1. The Reluctant Immortalist, Invisibilia S6E5.
  2. The Natural Experiment, 99% Invisible E401.
  3. Tomorrowland, The Last Archive S1E10.

Music

Favorite albums from 2020:

  1. RTJ4 by Run The Jewels.
  2. Shore by Fleet Foxes,
  3. Tęskno by Tęskno.

Tools

I stayed with Standard Notes as my second brain. Switched to Inkdrop for a brief stint in April. And had two longer stints with Obsidian in May and October.

Still, Standard Notes remains the simplest tool that provides me with much functionality. I have never enjoyed using it more than now.

Spent more time writing on paper than ever before. Many of the posts this year started on paper. Here are the notebooks from this year. Inspired by Austin Kleon.

Afterword

2020 was my weirdest year ever. But, frankly, the best one, too.

Still continuing The Search, now with more excitement than ever.

Looking forward to what 2021 has in store for us all. And the next 365 posts.

Thank you for being here, dear reader. I wish you, truly, all the best in this new chapter of our lives.

🖖,
Alex

Lesson 20: Courage

591

20 Lessons From 2020


I learned a lot of things this year. Probably more than ever before.

It was a year of transformation; not external, but internal. I still do the same things I did. Talk the way I did. Think the way I did. But something, deep inside, changed. It's like I swapped the OS but continue using the same programs.

Courage is my main lesson from 2020.

The courage to show up. To step down. To amplify others. To find your voice. To be resilient. To be caring. To be focused. To think. To wait before reacting.

To be present.

2020 tested us all, in many ways. But, most importantly, it tested our courage. And, whether we could face a challenge we've never faced before.

Answer that one for yourself.

Lesson twenty: courage will lead you.

Lesson 19: People

590

20 Lessons From 2020


As a certified introvert, I like to spend time alone. And, oh boy, I had a lot of that time this year.

It is, truly, what has made this year so good for me personally.

But, at the same time, I started to see the incredible value of having strong relationships with people you care about. Maybe because I had less contact overall, I could focus more on every single interaction, on every single person. Thus making the relationship deeper, more valuable.

In the pre-pandemic life, I often viewed people as distractions and obstructions. Of course, that didn't mean I stopped liking them. Their presence simply made me tired. Why? Because there was so much contact, yet very little of it was valuable. Because it was always an addition, not the main focus.

People are the treasures in your life. Care about them, cherish them, serve them. That's the secret to happiness.

Lesson nineteen: only people can be your friends.

Lesson 18: Synthesis

589

20 Lessons From 2020


Analyze, analyze, analyze.

Deliberate, reflect, ponder.

I do that a lot.

Especially in a year with more solitude and alone time than ever before.

To some extent, analyzing the past and present, asking questions, drilling down to the bottom of an issue, is good. It gives you superpowers, kind of. Allows you to see things as they are.

Yet, it's very easy to go too far. To analyze every part of your reality; ask question after question. It's a rabbit hole of never-ending madness. You can't really pick apart the whole world, right? It's bigger than you. It'd destroy you.

After analysis should some synthesis: a conclusion. A conclusion that doesn't have to be absolute; an end within itself. A conclusion, not the conclusion.

Lesson eighteen: don't forget about synthesis.