Looking for balance in life, work, and relationships. #1000 days because the first 365 were pretty easy.
37,520 words
antoszek.me

An Unnerving Thought

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In my search for balance, I've been coming back many times to the where, or rather, when, are you living?. Technically, we all live in the present. Yet so many of us spend time constantly re-living events from the past, or hypothesizing about things that might happen in the future. We rarely even notice this, to our dismay.

There's nothing wrong in dreaming about the future sometimes. Or intensely thinking about our memories from the past, sometimes. But there's a lot of wrong in doing that too often.

Because that means one, simple thing: our own present is not satisfying enough. The things around us, the people we have on our side, our daily routines etc. are not interesting enough for our monkey brain to focus on them. That's when we, often unconsciously, escape to a different time & place. Constantly worrying & planning for the future. Trying to figure out how things would go differently if we didn't make that one decision a few years ago.

For me, that little thought is a bit unnerving. At least when I notice I'm spending too much time not in the present. It's like this little reminder that not everything is as good as it looks. That maybe I'm indulged too much in my own ego, not seeing things clearly.

There's this one line in Westworld, the HBO show: Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?. To even think such thoughts is unnerving to some. But it's also eye-opening.

As it should be.

Cyclical Life

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The longer I live here on this planet, the more I'm starting to believe that almost everything in life is cyclical. That both our own selves, and the natural world around us are constantly going in cycles, revolving around a not-so-clearly defined center.

It's this rotational energy that propels the world forward; it makes us move forward on the timeline. Time ruthlessly move forward every second, while we wander around in circles, always going back to the starting point.

But is it, truly, always the same starting point?

I don't think so. Even when we come back to the same conclusions, to the same emotions after a journey (in time, space, mind, soul), we're always in a different place. Because we've learned a lot. We went places. We have a different outlook on the world after doing something.

After day comes night, after summer comes fall, after success comes failure, and after a breakthrough comes monotony.

By cherishing the cycles, we keep moving.

Total Congruency

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For me, these past few months have been a time of deep reflection, refinement, so to say. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I've been doing wrong during the past few years. Went back-to-back through all of the thins that happened, all of the decisions I made, people I met etc.

And during this pretty weird period, for the first time in a long, long time, I felt congruent with my whole self and the world around me.

It's the feeling that tells that you're doing the right thing in live. That you're who you should be, and that there's no reason behind trying to escape and finding a new, wholly different you. That the people around you are alright, too. That you shouldn't change everything, all the time. Yes, change should be cherished and encouraged, but at the same time, no one will find peace by running away constantly.

I've felt that feeling a few times before. In various situations, various moments of my life. But this time, it's been going on for a surprisingly long amount of time. How fun.

I'm going to undertake major changes in the next few months. I want to feel more congruent more of the time.

Paramount Suffering

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Some things just hurt. No matter how tough, how unmovable you might consider yourself to be, things will hurt you. Sometimes, we may feel like everything hurts. That's when we suffer.

Suffering is an awful state. No matter if inflicted by other people, or by things out of our control, it always sucks. It compresses our whole being to a mere projection of who we truly are.

I'll be honest: I kinda live under a rock. I hardly ever read the news, use social media sparingly; I just prefer to keep a distance. Only today have I finally watched the video from George Floyd's murder (because that's how it should be called). And I'm not even American, or have ever lived there. But it shook me to my core. I can't comprehend in my mind how could someone treat another person like this. And I know that this is only one example of hundreds of thousands of these pain-inflicting moments that happen every year.

I dearly hope, from the bottom of my heart, that this time it'll inflict change, too.

Chasing The Snails

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I've been thinking more and more about growth and what it truly means these past few days.

How often do we think that we're growing, improving, when we're just building up our ego? Just satisfying our desires to be seen?

This is a trap no one can avoid. As humans, we're all flawed. It's truly impossible to always to good things and do them without any ulterior motives.

The snails. Well, they're simply those who do not indulge themselves in "overnight success", they simply walk slowly, step by step, towards a future they believe in.

And I think I sometimes am chasing them. I'm running desperately trying to outdo those who walk slowly. And yeah, maybe I'll outrun them, but I'll miss the finish line too.

Don't run fueled by envy, walk fueled by resilience.

Break Out

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I feel like in life there are two quite clearly defined "states" in which we exist.

The first state is the state of accelerated improvement, where with every single action that we take, with every decision we make, we become better people. Because we know what we want, how we want it, and how it benefits us and others. And while there are many, many challenges along the way, we persevere in our life mission. It's the state of conscious existence. Of intentional growth, whenever and however possible. Also, energy in this state compounds: the things that we do have an effect on our future selves. Our decisions makes us wiser, calmer, more deliberate, more focused.

The other state is the exact opposite. Where actions, no matter how big or small, don't push us to do more. It's a mix of meaningless lethargy, of unconscious drifting through the sea of life, and always turning back to the defaults, not being bold enough to change things up.

I see people all around me suffering from living in the second state. I myself am sometimes feeling like this unnerving void of nothingness is slowly consuming my being. I have to actively, maybe even desperately, fight to get out. To break out from the hands of never-ending gray misery.

It just makes me sad. That every single one of us can do truly great things. Yes, some have it harder, some have it easier, but still, in the end everyone can make an impact. No matter in what aspect, what field, or who might it benefit. So many of us give up. It's like we didn't actually want to live, just prefer to drift away.

That's why we have to do truly good things. Because every single good action we take creates more good in the world. A simple gift, a few encouraging words, help, when needed, or heck, just a genuine smile can shine a bit of light in somebody's life. Maybe it won't be enough to get them into the state of accelerated improvement. But it will be a first step.

Maybe, someday, that bit of good that you sent out to another person will come back to you. Maybe it will jump around a bunch of people spurring more and more good along the way. And one particular rainy, miserable day, it will come back and help you break out.

Go on, smile.

We're All OK

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Sometime ago I encountered this idea of Transactional Analysis and Life Positions. I don't remember the entirety of this concept, as it was definitely more advanced and complicated than what I'm going to write about today.

But one of the things I remember were the four different "states" of acceptance:

  • I'm not okay, you're not okay
  • I'm okay, you're not okay
  • I'm not okay, you're okay
  • I'm okay, you're okay

These "states" basically determine how we approach everyone (including ourselves), and how much we're willing to accept people (including us) just as they are. What strikes me about them is how simple the whole concept is to understand, but how at the same time it is carrying so much real wisdom.

I've been trying to observe which states I myself and all the people around me are in. I started seeing firsthand how approaching life with the "someone's not okay" mindset is dangerous. Whenever we're thinking we're not enough, or that people around us are like that, or both, reality starts to crumble. We go into panic mode, because something's not okay. This, in my humble opinion, is what causes so much anxiety, hatred, misunderstanding, stress.

Only by realizing that we're all f-ing okay, and that everyone, including yourself, deserves respect on the basis of being a human being, can we live a full life.

Grow Small

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This week I've been thinking a lot about the idea of staying small, having less & not chasing growth. Both in personal life and in business. We live in a society where having more is considered successful. More money, a bigger house, a bigger business. And while in the area of personal life minimalism has been growing strong, in business this concept is still incredibly uncommon.

There are a few negative effects of this "dream big, do big" approach:

  1. It hardly ever guarantees true fulfillment. It may satisfy our grandeur desires of being seen & noticed, but will not satisfy the need for appreciation, both of yourself by others, and of others by you.
  2. More growth requires more investment, which raises operational costs, which in turn creates the need for more investment. (Applies to both personal & business).
  3. Growth is uncontrollable. Very often we loose our focus when we do more. It's almost impossible to not let growth dilute your moral compass.

This is where the idea of growing small comes in. Traditional growth, in both life & business, thinks that when we have something new, we should go for it, but at the same time preserve the old. That we should simply juggle more things at once whenever we create or are given something new. Growing small on the other hand means letting go of the past. When there's a new venture we're interested in, a new place where we want to live, we just have to let the old one die in peace. That way, we are growing (becoming better versions of ourselves), but not diluting our growth.

Don't try to live in three places all at once. Live solely in the now, with consideration of the future, and respect for the past.

Wind Of Change

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Change is the only way to move forward. To progress. To truly be a better version of yourself every single day. Those who do not appreciate change will be left behind. Always. It is maybe ruthless at times, but there's no way around it.

Yesterday, I binged Wind Of Change a podcast that explores how, theoretically, the CIA could've helped the Scorpions write the song Wind of Change, which played a massive role in bringing Germany together and later defeating communism. The story itself is very interesting and nicely told.

But what I'm interested in is the idea of compounding change.

Looking at the Soviet Union in the 80s, you can see a few signs that change is going to come, sooner or later. The country (and the whole block) was just not doing well for a variety of reasons. If you look closely, you'll see how smaller changes preceded the paramount change. How, at the time, the appointment of Gorbachev wasn't incredibly monumental - yes, he was a different leader, but he was still a staunch communist. And how much the fact that he was in charge influenced later events.

In our lives we often either completely don't want change, or very hardly crave it. We don't want to change the things we're satisfied with, but at the same time desperately pursue change in areas that we're not so satisfied with.

But change is exactly like the wind. Sometimes it blows hard, sometimes it does not at all. And we cannot control it.

The only reasonable way is to go with it.

A Sudden Suspense

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The world is in a state of "suspense" right now. We have either completely ceased or massively scaled down a lot of our endeavors as the human race. We probably won't come back to the way things were before. At least not in the next 12 months, for sure.

As the title inclines, the suspense was sudden at first. Very few people were fully ready for it. It was a sudden, unexpected, tension-building suspense. And some of us still seem to be surprised by it.

I feel like most of us are imagining this suspense the same way it usually happens in more dramatic classical music pieces. That all of this is just a break, a quiet moment which precedes a dramatic peak. We think that once the conductor waves his wand again, the orchestra will resume with full force.

But this way, we're building up expectations for something that most certainly won't happen. Or at least it shouldn't happen. For the sake of both our physical health, and mental health.

Tell me: don't you feel like you need a break sometimes? Then stop waiting for the orchestra to resume, because this might be the longest break of our lives. Let's not waste it.

The Morning Breeze

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I adore mornings. There's a certain magic to waking up right before sunrise and enjoying the view with a cup of tea.

Mornings are the most joyful, productive & creative periods of the day. I usually write this blog at 6am. I may not post it until the afternoon, because I like to give myself a bit of time to rethink what I've written a particular day. Sometimes I post right away. Morning walks are my favorite, too. I have the privilege of living around nature, and so there's literally no one on the forest track other than birds, foxes and the ever-growing flock of roe-deer.

I'm wondering why that is? Why are mornings so much better for me?

The answer, for me, is clear: mornings are like a clean slate. There's no "residue" from the day. There are no strong, negative emotions. There isn't a single gram of tiredness. Everything is fresh, clean, and leaves a lot of space to make & do.

Hope you'll enjoy your Matcha tomorrow at 5 am.

A Stroke Of Insight

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When an idea strikes, we usually feel energized and empowered to work on it. And that's beautiful. Ideas are beautiful, no matter how polished or unpolished they are.

I adore that feeling of reaching the stroke of insight. After months and months of deliberating, finally seeing things clearly, exactly the way they should be. Creativity and inspiration hit like a tsunami wave.

And it is, truly, like a stroke (not that I know from personal experience). You feel a rush at first, but soon after a sense of incredible calm and fulfillment sets in. You feel like you're right, and you know that you are.

I just experienced such a moment. Literally an hour ago. I feel like it's been building up inside of me during the past few months, but I couldn't notice it. It was too small, not extraordinary enough to be noticed in the midst of everyday. But after all this time, all this confusion, it finally reached The Breaking Point, and surfaced to my conscious mind.

That point cannot be achieved through doing truly nothing at all. It requires constant movement & infinite deliberation. Conscious or not.

Looks like I've found the next thing. We'll see how it works out in a year or so.

2020 Tools Update

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It's been a long time since the last tools update. I try not to obsess too much about finding the best tools for my work.

I'm writing this post as much for myself as I'm doing it for you. Yes, my primary goal is sharing my workflow with others for the sake of inspiration, debate & shared wisdom. But writing things out in a single post is also a way for me to analyze the current setup and see it as a whole.

One common theme you'll see among my tools is simplicity. During the past 12 months I went on a crusade of decluttering and simplifying every single possible tool. I think that the true power of tools lies in the habits we associate with them, not in the features they have. So you won't find fancy automation, complex databases & 100s of apps here. You'll find a system that works very well without being overly complex.

Note: some of the links here may be affiliate links.

The Planner

The most basic, but at the same time the most crucial tool is my planner. It's a simple Moleskine hardcover ruled notebook. It's compact enough to carry it around with ease, but big enough to let me plan my day thoroughly. Every day has its own page. I divide my day into 30-minute blocks; my plan starts at 6am and ends at 8pm. This system is perfect for me, because there's one line for every 30 minutes. If I'm working on a task in that one block, then I'm going to work for 25 minutes and have a 5 minute break afterwards. It's stupidly simple yet incredibly effective.

My use of this planner is kind of inspired by the Bullet Journal, because I used that method for about 8 months. In the end, I realized that I need a system which is more centered around time. And there my planner was born.

I pair it with a simple LAMY logo ballpoint pen.

The Journal

My second main analog tool is my journal. For this, I use a Baronfig Confidant Plus. It's a simple yet beautiful hardcover notebook with amazing quality paper. Writing my daily journal in it is pure pleasure. I don't have a fancy system with prompts, scales etc. I just write a sentence or two about how I'm feeling in the morning, and fill out the rest of the page during the evening. This notebook is pretty huge, so I don't carry it around in my everyday backpack.

I write in it using my LAMY lx fountain pen. It's a very solid metal pen, but it's not crazy expensive. Writing with it is an absolute pleasure.

The Idea-books

At last, there are the many notebooks I call "idea-books". Basically, I have a few Moleskine plain journals in various sizes which I carry around with me all the time. I use them for taking notes, writing longer pieces, jotting down ideas on the go, and whatever else I need them for. They're unorganized and unstructured on purpose; they're an extensions of my brain.

Here is a set of my favorite ones with detachable pages.

Standard Notes

No matter how much I adore my analog notebooks, digital tools still have many advantages. While I moved a lot of my core "operations" to paper, I still stick to a few simple digital apps.

Standard Notes is my favorite note-taking app ever. It's simple, yet very reliable, and incredibly secure. Works on all platforms and is open source.

For me, the greatest power of this app lies in it's multiple editors. I write my notes in HTML, blog posts in Markdown, ideas in plain text, project task lists in the task editor & tables in the spreadsheets one. I organize my entire digital workflow inside of this app. It's the first productivity app that I've ever used that doesn't encourage me to procrastinate inside of it. Whenever I open SN, I immediately jump into work.

iA Writer

While I can write my longer texts in Standard Notes, I prefer writing them in iA Writer. It's a beautiful markdown writing app. Again, it follows simple design & UX principles; simplicity & usefulness. Writing in this app is an absolute breeze. It makes it so much easier to write.

Raindrop

While Standard Notes is my one-and-only app for my own stuff, Raindrop is the one for everybody else's stuff. I use it to collect articles, videos, podcasts, and basically everything else that can be saved as a link or as an image. One of the best things about Raindrop is that it distills the content and shows it in a nice preview. So, no ads on articles, and no recommended videos on a TED Talk.

Other Stuff

Here are a few other digital tools that I use every day:

  • ProtonMail - secure and encrypted email.
  • ProtonVPN - it's always nice to browse the Canadian Internet.
  • Basecamp - very opinionated project management tool. Their CTO is a well-known aggressive Tweeter calling out bullshit.
  • Ghost - WordPress's cool younger cousin. 8 times faster.
  • Carrd - simple one-page websites for all of us too lazy to code from the ground-up.
  • DigitalOcean - pretty damn good developer cloud for everything.
  • Whereby - video chatting simpler than Zoom. Oh, and they're Norwegian & care about privacy.
  • Simple Analytics simple, privacy-respecting analytics based in The Netherlands.

Ok, that's all for this train of nerdiness. Keep this in mind: tools don't matter, habits do.

Stubborn Optimism

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I've recently listened to this episode of the TED Radio Hour, my favorite podcast. It explores climate change and how we need to shift our mindsets before taking action. One of the guests in that episode is Christiana Figueres, the diplomat that lead 194 countries to sign the Paris Agreement in 2015.

She talked about the idea of stubborn optimism; working against the odds to accomplish an immensely beneficial goal. I'm really impressed and empowered by her & her team's achievements. Getting all those different countries, often with very stubborn leaders, to sign such an agreement is a great success. And yes, I know that not everyone's been following diligently the rules set out by the agreement. But still, the success is there.

This made me think about why we give up. Why do great, thoughtful people give up doing great things? I've seen many people going through the process of giving up. My friends, my family, people I follow.

I think there's one answer: we're not stubborn enough. We don't realize that we can't care about the doubters.

I wonder how many great inventions wouldn't be here today if their inventors wouldn't be stubborn. How many opportunities would be lost.

And I'm not saying that criticism is bad. It's a completely different thing, and it should always be accounted for. Or at least when it's constructive.

Once in a while humanity will need a racehorse with blinders. For the sake of change.

WTF Is Balance?

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This blog's transformation is complete. It started out as a simple "Daily Thoughts" ideas dumping ground. I wrote for the sake of writing.

At this point, this blog is a "merger" from two. I decided to change the name from Daily Thoughts to In Search For Balance, which was another blog I wrote semi-regularly. The whole idea of that blog was my life's search for balance, harmony, stability, growth.

I think I need a refresher of what this thing that I spend so much time looking for truly means.

Balance is peace. It's confidence in who you are and what makes you. It's courage to be different, to be unique. It's a mindful, careful, yet adventurous way of life.

Balance is the way.