Looking for balance in life, work, and relationships. #1000 days because the first 365 were pretty easy.
95633 words
@balance_wtf

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

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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 interesting. 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Problems Pt 2

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Read part one.

Problems are like nuts. Tough on the outside, hard to chew. Somewhat tasteless. But full of nutritious micro- and macro-elements. So dense, so packed.

To actually deal with your problems, you have to bite them like a nut. It's going to hurt. Once you get through the hard shell, chewing the inside will be easier. Tastier. Eating nuts strengthens your teeth.

When you see a problem, take it, bite it, chew it hard. Don't go around. The detour is kinda boring.

Problems are like bombs. Left unattended, they might explode. Even if you think you've left them behind a long time ago. We're still finding unexploded bombs from World War I.

Defusing a bomb is no easy task. There are multiple cables, tangled in a huge mess. Cut the wrong cable, the bomb will explode in your hands. Finding the right one, or the combination of right ones, is a delicate and time-consuming task.

Finding the right cable to cut is like looking for the cause. The cause, the root of the problem is validating its existence. Every cause is real, but not every cause is true. Causes are reflections of our identity, constituted by our inability to synthesize.

It will take time until you defuse the bomb. It will take time until you chew the nut. But it will be worth a million times more than looking for a detour.

And you'll be free of your problem(s)!

Problems Pt 1

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Problems seem to be everywhere. Everyone seems to have them. Oh how often do I hear people say: he's dealing with a lot of problems right now. Or: she's a problematic person.

I've been hearing about "problems" all my life. About how I have them, about how others have them. Over the years, I gathered some interesting observations about problems - or, rather, how we approach and interpret problems. Perception is a powerful tool.

The common way of viewing problems is seeing them as roadblocks. You have a clear path you've embarked on, and suddenly you arrive at a roadblock. An obstacle. A thing that is blocking your journey. So what do you do? You take a detour, go around it, and continue going on your path. The problem is a nasty, negative thing that prevented you from going your way. And you had to take a detour. Madness.

In this model, the problem is perceived negatively. It's also not interacted with, being left away while we're taking our detour. Can't go one way? Let's find another. Ain't nothin' gonna stop us.

Continue to part two.

Helpful Environment

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Designing an environment that stimulates work is something I love to do.

Some people swear they can do their work anywhere, with no impact on the quality. Others have specific needs regarding their environment.

I've always been somewhere in the middle. Sure, I can do my work in more than one place, but there are a few deal-breakers that slow me down.

Recently I bought a sit-stand desk, something I've been dreaming about for a long time. Now, I feel more at peace and in sync with my office than ever before. Immediately when I enter that room, sit at that desk, thoughts start flowing. There's little friction to me starting work, doing something creative.

It's always hard to start doing something. When you lower that friction, it's easier to do great work. Of course, that doesn't mean the quality of your finished work will improved - that's a wholly separate aspect to tackle.

Be in sync, multiply the power.

Enough

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As DHH wrote in his blog post a while ago , we don't appreciate when we have enough.

Somehow, it seems, that our thirst for more has become stronger in recent times. Is it a staple of the human condition to never be satisfied?

Building out your enough sense is a powerful exercise for living in today's world. That little voice that tells you to refuse, to stop when you've had enough.

As I look around at successful, fulfilled and happy people around me, I see one common trait among them: they know when it's enough. Enough work, enough pleasure, enough dreaming, enough rest.

Two years ago I'd never refuse another cookie. Six months ago I'd never refuse a chance to meet up with a friend whom I admire. A year ago I'd never voluntarily stop working.

Understanding what is enough does indeed come with practice. But, the more you ask, the more you observe yourself, the better you'll learn when to say enough.