3 Ways To Get Value Out Of Nature

Yes, houses are nice. Air conditioning is definitely good (especially coming from Arizona), alongside all the other amazing benefits of society and technology. That being said, there is massive value to nature that you can still find to this day. In this article, I wanted to talk about the three main positive benefits I think people can get from going out into the natural world just a little bit more.

Finding Calmness

There’s something eternally calming and meditative about being away from the bustle of the modern world. If a standard meditation exercise only takes us out of the world for a few moments, then being alone in nature is the ultimate meditation.

Learning from other species

People watching is fun, but watching the rest of the animal kingdom in its natural habitat is a wonder all of itself. There’s a lot you can learn from the strategies of other species; many technological advancements in subjects such as swarm intelligence and aerodynamics would not be made if not for observing how other animals do what they do. Of course, observing forest denizens isn’t just for finding an idea for your next invention; on a more philosophical level it can allow you to connect with others who call this world home.

Understanding the World

We make a lot of stuff up. Sometimes, it’s hard to realize that. In a world full of music, and deadlines, and business and governments, we take such abstract concepts very seriously; perhaps a bit too seriously sometimes. When you go into the forest (or whatever other natural environment you happen to be in), you’re matched with what the world was in the beginning, before we had constructed all these concepts. The only pieces of the puzzle that are real are the ones that are out there; the way the creek flows, the rustling of the leaves, and the games of survival among the animals who live there. These are the only hard and fast rules in life; the ones that we’ve created are mostly derivations. I can find some solace in this, and I bet some of you could as well.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. You can subscribe to it here.

The Difference between Quitting and Giving Up

 

 

I’m usually really bad at quitting things. Once I’ve gotten into something deep, it’s hard to stop it; even if I really don’t like it or it otherwise isn’t giving me value. I just hate the idea of giving up on something.

Part of this probably has to do with the fact that, when I was younger, I had the exact opposite problem. I was giving up on things left and right. I would think of a new great idea for a website, or a project, or a book, get really excited, work on it for about 2 weeks, and then hit a wall. And then never came back from that wall. Repeat ad nauseum.

For veteran readers of the blog, this might sound familiar. It’s something I brought up in my final post on the #100DaysofCode challenge. In the post, I make a promise to myself to continue climbing even when I’ve hit that wall. And while I’ve done pretty good at continuing to hit on things now, I’m starting to wonder; is there anything that you should give up on? And if so, how do you figure out what it is?

About two months ago I read Seth Godin’s The Dip, which I would say touches on this subject better than anything I’ve previously read (it’s also only around 80 pages). Godin essentially fully describes this sort of wall idea that I mentioned in the 100DaysofCode, and gives some outlines on how to tell the difference between quitting for a good reason and quitting for a bad reason. I’ve decided to take a bit of a spin on these ideas and write out what I think are the key principles to think about:

Does this project give me joy?

As a good rule of thumb, Marie-Kondoing your project list will work pretty well. Now, there are a few exceptions to this rule (we’ll discuss them in the next point) but overall if over the full scope of the project you can’t think of a single redeeming feature about it that gives you confidence or excitement, then its pretty easy to see that its probably not worth it. This is the heuristic I probably use most often, although it does need to be used with restraint; just because something does not give you immediate satisfaction does not mean it is worthless in the long term.

What am I currently getting out of this project? What will I get when this project is completed?

Opportunity cost is also a pretty good heuristic for deciding whether something is worth it or not. To gauge opportunity cost, you’d have to look at both short term prospects and long term prospects to decide whether something is good. If something has only a few short-term rewards but many long-term rewards, then it’s a good investment. If there’s no short-term rewards and only a few long-term rewards, then you may want to at least consider other options. This is where the exception from earlier comes into play; something might not necessarily bring joy, but still give you better prospects if you complete it. Sometimes, if the rewards are high enough, I can understand slumping through a project at least temporarily to get into a better position later.

Will this project help me achieve my long-term goals?

Always focus with the end in mind. Not every single one of your current projects will involve one of your long-term goals (at least not obviously) but you should always make sure that the path you’re going down currently will at least lead you into hitting those markers. Don’t have long-term goals? Then make some, and follow them. Long-term goals have been the de-facto best way I have made sure to stay consistently on track, and I’ll probably continue to consistently refine it into the future.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. I do want to point out that we have a brand new newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on. You can subscribe to it here.

3 Tips for Avoiding Project Burnout

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Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

For ambitious people, burnout can be a real problem. I can speak from experience when I say that I would love to do ten times more than I actually do, but simply physically cannot. Even then, I try futilely, only to realize the stress builds up and you notice you all of a sudden aren’t have quite as much fun as you used to.

So, in this post, I wanted to give some tips for avoiding burnout. These tips are mostly things that I have found helpful for me, and so hopefully you’ll find them helpful as well.

1. Recognize you have burnout

Yup. When it comes to something like this, recognition is oftentimes half the battle. Sometimes burnout can be confused with just plain stress; both are negative factors, but one has much worse long-term repercussions. Keep cognizant of whether there’s something specific that you’ve been working on that’s been causing all your fatigue, and you’ll be able to better pinpoint your burnout.

2. Give yourself a break

Once you’ve recognized that you’re feeling the effects of burnout, take an hour or two to relax. Many times this can be surprisingly hard; when you’ve been working on a project for a long time, it can be hard to quit. The urge to “be productive” takes a hold of you, and you can’t easily let it down. However, the facts are that you are actually much, much more productive if you take regular breaks than if you stay laser-focused on a project for an extended period of time; your ability to perform tasks well grows logarithmically over time, and can only be refreshed with the occasional break. This is by far the best way to fix short-term burnout.

3. Take out the non-essential

For long-term burnout, we’ll have to take some different, more extreme measures. Sometimes it isn’t that you’ve been working on a specific project for a long time in a given day; sometimes its that you’ve been working on many different projects for a long time in a given week, month, etc. In this case, it might be best for you to think of what to cut out.

One of my personal favorite quotes is from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who said that “perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. I love strategically quitting projects. Whenever I work on something long enough and begin to feel it hitting a dead-end, I think to myself whether or not working on it would really help me progress to one of my long-term goals; if it does not, I stop working on it. Now take in mind that strategic quitting really is a skill; it’s hard to just give up on something, especially when you’ve made decent progress on it. But when that project is hurting you more than helping you, then its time to kill it off. Only then will the burnout cease.

Anyway, that’s all for this one. I do want to point out that we have a brand new newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff going on, with the first issue coming out this Saturday. You can subscribe to it here.

Finding Adventure in 2019

 

 

It’s true. You were born too late to discover Earth, and too early to discover Space. I mean, technically you could discover the depths of the ocean, but who the hell would want to do that?

It can seem like especially in our current age of the Internet that adventure and discovery is a now, for the most part, dead concept. I remember as a kid I used to be really excited to discover new paths, easter eggs, and mysteries in the video games I used to play; however, now thanks to the unfortunate creation of data-mining, all of these secrets are ruined on day one or two. All the mystery is gone. So, how do we find adventure in our upcoming year?

Well, I think the first thing we have to do is discover what “discover” means. I think discovery, and therefore adventure and exploration come in phases. First, there is an initial breakthrough, such as when Europe discovered the Americas at the turn of the 16th century. Sure someone had set foot on it, but that didn’t mean that data was easily transmitted to the rest of the world. What did it look like? What sounds were there? What did the people and animals appear as? You could, if you were lucky, get this information second-hand from either knowing someone who went to the continent or otherwise read it being described, but beyond that, no one had truly discovered the Americas besides the people who went there.

Then, as time came on, we got pictures. And then video. And then Google Earth. Now, all of a sudden, I can pick a random spot in Russia and tell you exactly what it looks like. I can find a video of Thailand and figure out what it would be like (approximately) to live there. This second form of discovery I like to call impersonal discovery; even though you’ve never been there, thanks to technology you can get a very good understanding and estimation of what its like. I’ve never set foot on the moon, but if I view pictures and video of it enough, combined with second-hand experiences like reading, I can pretty much know what it’s like to set foot on the moon.

Alright, well that’s two generations of discovery down that we’ve already missed. What’s next? Well, fortunately for you, this final realm of discovery can never be fully absorbed by anyone but you. Which is why it gets the name personal discovery. You see, being born in Arizona, I was exposed to the Grand Canyon a lot. I saw many videos of it, even more pictures, and like any good child I flew through it in the Google Earth Flight Simulator numerous times. So, when I heard I was finally going to go to it when I was 14, I wasn’t really expecting to get anything new. Boy was I wrong.

There was this ethereal majesty to the canyon that I really could not get from anything I had previously experienced about it. Things like depth and length were awe-striking attributes that could not be condensed into any current technology. And, guess what? There are many types of these attributes, and they run across all life experiences; not just canyons.

Our brains are wired to thrive on new experiences. The more we can learn about the world by exploring it ourselves, the more we become rewarded. It doesn’t have to be the Grand Canyon anymore than it has to be the new coffee shop down the street. As long as we are constantly switching from routine, and discovering things on our own, we will stay just as happy and wise as the people who explored Earth long ago.

Well, that’s it for now. Have any thoughts about how people can crack their own adventure for the upcoming year? Have any plans of your own? Feel free to comment about them down below. If you liked this post, feel free to follow the blog or my personal Twitter to stay updated. I will be having a newsletter for my content (hopefully) pretty soon, so look forward to that as well!

The Dangers of Catastrophizing

 

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Photo by asoggetti on Unsplash

 

Fear rules most of the modern world. It is manifested in many forms, whether it be anger, sadness, or a range of other emotions. I have, for quite some time, come under the strict belief that fear prevents people from achieving happiness. That it prevents them from achieving success. And while I could write a book on the importance of overcoming fear, I wanted in this post to focus on one very specific detail of fear; that of catastrophizing.

For those unfamiliar, catastrophizing is a form of slippery slope bias which is exactly as it sounds. Essentially, it prevents a person from going down a path due to the fact that the person insists that the absolute worst possible events have the greatest chance of occurring. To give a more concrete example, I’ll focus on the classic case of entrepreneurship: “I can’t become an entrepreneur, because my startup will fail, and I’ll have to file for bankruptcy, and then I’ll become homeless and won’t be able to get a new job”. This is a (depressingly) common outlook on why people refuse to start their own company, and just by looking at it you can begin to see the faults in the logic. While it is true that most startups do fail, there is no reason to assume from the get-go that yours will fail as well. And from there, we dive into… bankruptcy? What? Most startup failures won’t result in a bankruptcy unless you’re highly leveraged, which most conservative founders refuse to do. And now, all of a sudden, we’re permanently homeless. How does this work?

The truth is that while its hard to believe when it’s all laid out, catastrophizing works in waves. First, a person learns to believe in the first phase. Then, they learn to believe the second. And it continues in such a way that when we finally reach the bottom, each step in the process seems perfectly reasonable.

The one way to really get out of this method of thinking is to step back and look at why you won’t do something with new eyes. Try readdressing the scenario under different circumstances. Would this fall apply then? Also, try to understand the logic behind each one of your beliefs. Why do you really think you’re going to fail this hard? Finally, try to do some more, active research on the topic. Get opinions and data from people from both sides of the aisle – not just stories that try to confirm your apocalyptic assumptions.

Hopefully, this helps if you have been feeling similar to this about something. As always, give this blog a like if you enjoyed it, and remember to follow both the blog and my Twitter for updates on posts.

How to Avoid Writer’s Fatigue

You can probably tell what the inspiration for this blog post was.

 

After starting up the weekly blog again, I had begun anew with nothing. All of my extra Monday Chat topics from a year ago had been lost to time, and so instead of being able to choose from a few dozen topics, I could only choose from three. And although the three were fairly good, none of them were good for this week. Or at least, that’s what I convinced myself in my head.

Certainly, I had fallen into some sort writer’s fatigue over the long weekend. I’ve experienced this fatigue before; it has been what has caused me to stop the weekly blog every other time it had ended. One day you wake up and think “You know, I really just don’t want to do this”. Yes, writing is supposed to be fun, but at some point it becomes routine. And then it’s less fun.

I’ve fallen into this trap with the podcast before as well. A podcast (especially my type of podcast) should be incredibly simple; set up a good mic and talk for an hour. But sometimes there’s a prevailing boredom that comes over the idea of talking about something; after all, what is there to talk about?

So, falling into this trap many times before, I’ve decided to make a guide as to the steps I’ve taken to halt this process as much as possible:

 

Go on a walk

Get out of the house and go walk. Go walk to somewhere you haven’t been. If you live in the suburbs, check out the surrounding neighborhoods. If you’re in an urban setting, see what the city has to offer. Bring a small journal with you and as little  What’s important is that you free your mind of the current situation and try to think of new ideas or things to write about outside of a familiar setting.

Another important step in this process is to not bring headphones. You walk places with headphones to tune out the surroundings; in this case, you’re trying to tune into them. Absorbing new environments springs forth new ideas. Along this vein, bring your phone only if necessary and if you do, only use it to check the time (that includes not reading/ignoring new notifications). Now that we’re in a good setting, it’s time to start thinking of ideas.

 

Getting the ideas

The best piece of brainstorming advice I’ve ever gotten is this: brainstorming should be a form of creative vomit. Throw out all the ideas you have before you have a chance to judge them; each idea that you have, even if its garbage, can end up springing forth better ideas. This step is key to our process; as you’re walking, the moment an idea springs forth into your head, find a place to sit and quickly jot it all down. Don’t think about how good it is, or how much you can write on it; that comes later.

Only once you do get back can you look at the full list and decide what’s best. Put down the entire list of topics into a word doc and check each of them out. Take in mind the goal here is to keep as many topics as possible, thus to diversify the potential of what you can write on; of course, if you can’t write on something you can’t write on something, but try to keep an open mind. You can also alter old items to make it better, so keep open to this as well.

 

Some Sidenotes

This is a strategy that I’ve been using for the past year or so, and I’ve found it a great way to deter any sort of fatigue, not just writing. Whether it be studying, doing a project, cold-calling, etc. – this strategy still works, just replace blog topics with whatever you’re working on right now. I also want to use some time to explain the difference between writer’s block and writer’s fatigue. Certainly this method can help both, but I’ve found fatigue to be a greater detriment to my long-term progress than a block. Writer’s block is simply when you can’t think of anything to write; writer’s fatigue is when you simply do not want to write anymore. Try to keep these both in mind when you’re hitting roadblocks in the process.

 

As always, give this post a like/clap if you enjoyed it, and be sure to follow my Twitter for more updates. See you next week.

How Important are Principles?

 

 

Our world consists of various sets of laws. There are laws of nature, laws of government, laws of chess, etcetera. Therefore, one might think there is also, more abstractly, laws of life itself. Of course, we are all unique beings, and so the best way to go about finding these laws of life is not by looking at others but instead looking at oneself.

This, I believe, is the fundamental idea behind having a set of principles. Over the past few months, I’ve experimented by writing down all the things I believe to be “right” about the world and setting them into a single document which I’ve entitled Principles. Each principle is a simple statement of what I believe to be a fact on how to operate in life; making it out to be sort of a manual of sorts. Right now, there is approximately 40 of them, and it is a work that is in constant progress.

Whenever I hit a hard problem or decision I need to solve, I’ve developed the habit of consorting to the principles I’ve written down and thinking: “What is the best next action to take, given these principles?”. And I’ve found that it works. It works really well. Surprisingly well.

The principles aren’t all uniquely my own either; a lot of them have been inspired by things others have said. The entire start of the project was, of course, inspired by the work of Ray Dalio, who I shared quite a few principles in common with. Even more of my principles, however, have come from simply reading what other people have made, or listening to others, and finding nice tidbits from them as well. In total, I get my own unique set of principles by listening to the wisdom of hundreds of other people.

So, now we come to the question of this post: “How important are principles?”. Well, based on my own experience, I certainly think that they help. I would say that principles work best with removing cognitive dissonance and other mental clutter that might result in preventing you from becoming your ideal self. I will certainly be continuing my own experiment with principles because of this, and I do insist that you start to design your own.

I’d also be interested in anyone else’s opinion on principles – do you have your own that you find to be helpful? Feel free to post them in the comments below. You can also (as always) follow my Twitter for more miscellaneous musings.

P.S.: Some astute readers might notice that this post was uploaded on a Tuesday as opposed to the typical Monday release. This is purposeful; I’m changing the release schedule for a few of my projects in order to ensure that they always come out on time. The new permanent (at least, into the foreseeable future) release date for all new blog posts will be Tuesdays instead of Mondays.