Understand what most people does, so you can do the opposite

In any kind of society, it will always be difficult to be different from the majority. A lot of social pressure mechanisms is usually put in place, to make us feel bad if we choose not to conform to the cultural norms around us.

However, once we realize this, and start asking ourselves what is most important to us – theirs or our own vision for our lives’ trajectory – we may be able to look passed these external expectations and think for ourselves.

As a concrete example, I can tell you about the immense social pressure me and my wife feel these days, to have kids, as we are currently in the perfect stage, according to the convention, to start our own family. We have no desire to do this at the moment, and whenever we aren’t bothered by family members, who can’t shut up about our “soon to arrive fictional kids”, we see the tremendous freedom and carelessness it wins us to go against the current.

Most of my friends are having kids these days, and I am not saying that they are making bad choices. I am just saying, that I am happy for me and my wife, that we are not making the same choice right now.

It is not always beneficial to do the opposite of the mainstream. But sometimes it is, and it is worth thinking about when this might be, so you can experience the life equivalent of a blue ocean strategy.

Think about this:

Most people move to the city.

And this influences housing prices. For a lot of people, it would pay them well to consider moving to the countryside, as the cost of living is usually 5 times lower there. It is mind boggling to think about, how the poor population of every society is usually concentrated where housing prices are highest – in the inner cities.

 

Most people eat meat with every meal.

I am not advocating veganism, I just want to point out how almost everyone I know, can’t imagine eating a single meal without meat included. This makes meat very expensive compared to other good sources of protein. Try mixing it up!

 

Most people watch TV every day.

And this makes the general public’s knowledge very homogenous. Everyone knows about the latest football match, scandal or terrorist attack. Let them be the experts on these subjects, and you can then learn about something completely different.

This will make your personal knowledge very much specialized and unique, whereas every averagely smart person you meet, will have a lot to teach you, in case you are curious to know what’s in the news these days.

 

Most people accumulate stuff.

Therefore, they have to work very hard, day after day, in order to afford and be able to store all of their stuff. Once you jump off this bandwagon, you can immediately stop yourself in your tracks, and ask what it is you really would like to do in life?

 

Most people are incredibly busy with their career.

In this category, I personally feel incredible social pressure from my peers, as everyone is constantly comparing themselves to each other. This makes it very important for everybody to compete on salary and status, and nobody can ever relax and enjoy anything. Busyness becomes endemic, and actually enjoying life gets postponed until retirement (if that ever comes).

My life has become ten times more relaxed, ever since I quit this race.

In some cases, going against the current may hurt you, whereas it might pay off in others if you can muster the courage.

It is up to you to decide, what is true for you in all of life’s larger decisions.

Free from authority

I must admit, I have always had problems with authorities to some degree throughout my life. Some might accuse me of having a big ego or being a spoiled child.

I know one thing, though: my parents had a very laissez-faire style of parenting me and my brother, and this has to be part of the explanation.

Because of this, I have always had problematic relationships with teachers in school, bosses at work and politicians that I don’t particularly agree with.

It is only natural for us humans, to mirror everyone around us in ourselves, and so I personally have a tendency to assume that everyone else must also hate their bosses, their workplace and restrictions on their lives in all forms – the same way I do.

So I sometimes wonder why people aren’t more weary of making grant commitments in their lives – to housing loans, car loans, pets they need to take care of for 15 years or even having kids. Don’t they see that all of this raises their dependency on others (as in their bosses)?.

Then again, I have to realize that not everyone is like me. Some people must actually like their boss and their bank.

Nevertheless, I still have to make the argument that many humans long for more freedom in modern society. And this, I think, make sense from an evolutionary perspective, because our psyche has not evolved yet, to being this dependent on external authoritative entities.

My Thesis

Every time we think about evolution, we can (simplistically speaking) forget about this most recent period, where we have had agriculturally based civilizations, and instead think primarily of the longer hunter-gatherer era we had before that.

Back then, we probably didn’t form groups much bigger than 150 people (according to Dunbar’s Number), and it is easy to imagine just how little authority one would encounter on a daily basis in those days.

Obviously, these societies would have some kind of chieftain among them, but rebellions could have quickly materialized once such an authority would get too unreasonable.

For the record, I am no anthropologist by any means, so what do I know? 🙂

My main point here, is that the level of authority that we have to deal with in modern society, is probably a little weird seen from our own biology, and maybe there is a good reason why so many dream about being their own bosses, financially free and influential enough to have a say in how the law system affects their lives.

Maybe, thinking this much about simplicity and freedom isn’t only for spoiled brats (like myself), but something that could enhance the lives of the majority?

 

 

On keeping a mantra (with Inbox)

It is super hard to implement a new idea for how to live the optimal life into one’s daily routine.

The problem has existed ever since we humans started to try living according to higher moral principles, than say, just receding to our primal instincts. Both religion and philosophy have historically been vehicles for this.

But due to our somewhat unreliable and easily distracted nature, we have always sought to find techniques that could help us stay on course when times got challenging.

Journaling, meditation, praying, fasting and the practice of wearing symbolic artifacts have all served as reminders, to help us remember our path.

One of the greatest emperors of Rome, Marcus Aurelius, chose to sit down and journal in his diary after a hard days work, contemplating the optimal way of living for a stoic philosopher, mostly to remind himself of what I already knew, so he wouldn’t forget next time he would encounter a stressful situation.

It is still as difficult today, for us humans to stay on a mental course, once we get pushed or stressed out, and that is what makes Marcus’ book relevant 2000 years later.

My Idea

Recently, I wrote about how I like to try and incorporate certain principles into my daily routine, by writing them as reminders on the lock screen image on my phone, so I can get reminded several times a day.

The problem I found with this, however, is that my brain has a weird ability to ignore a static image that it is presented with continuously throughout the day. It is as if the letters loose their meaning, once you have seen them enough times.

So now, instead, I have come up with the idea of using my to-do list to repeat a daily mantra.

It is important to mention, that I use the Inbox app from Google, as both my email client and to-do list, and this is important, because of the snooze function that you can use to snooze all emails and to-dos to a future moment.

I input a principle that I want to remember as a to-do, and then I snooze it for the next day. Once next day rolls around, and I decide to check my email inbox, I get reminded about the mantra, which I had totally forgotten about, and then I snooze it again for the next day, or whenever I want to be reminded again.

The act of having to interact and snooze the object makes it easier for me to actually register and think about it for a split second.

In practice

Right now, my daily mantra is something I stole from Zenhabit, and is simply: “You don’t know anything”.

If you stretch the meaning of this saying, you can apply it to almost all areas of your life:

Oh, you are feeling stressed right now? You don’t know anything about how stressful life can be. Your life is probably pretty easy.

Oh, people seem stupid and annoying today? You don’t know anything about what it is like to be them, or even how they perceive you.

Oh, you don’t feel like making the extra effort today? You don’t know anything about what the long term consequences of your laziness will be. Better make sure to put in the work today.

I might change this mantra over time, or input several others into this system, that I can snooze to different times. But this is what it looks like currently.

Evaluating your latest timehack

Lately, I have been contemplating the idea of getting myself one of those fancy Apple watches, since my brain tells me that it might be able to add value to my life.

Since I identify as a man who enjoys the benefits of “simple living” or minimalism, you can imagine how the thought of getting such a superfluous item has been a source of internal conflict for me.

I am torn on the subject, because I am also a productivity enthusiast, and in this regard, I get immensely excited every time recognize an opportunity to save time. Even if we are talking about a few seconds here and there on a continual basis.

In the case of the Apple watch, I envision how I could save a few seconds whenever somebody texted me, and I would be able to tell whether or not to respond, by just looking at my wrist, as opposed digging up my smartphone from a tightly fitted pair of jeans.

Another case example would be, whenever I want to shot off the Philips Hue lights in my apartment. It would be a few seconds faster to do it by tapping my wrist, rather than unlocking my phone, and do it from there.

As I said, the potential wins in time I could enjoy from getting the watch would only be minuscule. But seen through an accumulative lens, a few seconds gained every day, quickly amounts to hours on a yearly basis – at least, this I how I rationalized getting it at first glance.

But then I thought deeper about it

If we seriously want to do the calculation of whether the acquisition of a time hack is worth it, we have to include all possible variables that might be related to time and energy.

In the example of the watch, we need to factor in the initial time investment we have to make, just to actually get the watch. Here, I am talking about the required money that you will have to work for and earn, plus the time it takes to go out and actually buy it.

Doing my regular job, it might take my around 30 hours of work, just to accumulated enough funds to match the retail price. Add the about 30 minutes it would take me to order it on the internet, and decide on the design.

Further, we need to imagine how much of my time it will take on a continual basis. For instance, the watch has to be recharged every night, and this will probably cost me something in time.

Lastly, we have to think about, for how long this gadget will be functional and able to provide me with the gains in time. I estimate that such an advanced watch would probably last me around 3 years.

 

We are then ready to make the final calculation

We guess that the watch:

– Costs 30,5 hours (1.830 minutes) to acquire

– Takes about 5 seconds of my time every day

– Gives me around 15 seconds in time every day

– Lasts for 3 years (1.095 days)

 

In total, the watch costs me:

5*1095+1830 = 7.305 minutes

 

And in total, wins me:

15*1095 = 16.425 minutes

 

And I thereby get a surplus in time of: 9.120 minutes, or 152 hours (during 3 years).

About 50 hours a year. Not bad actually!

 

Of course, all variables in this calculation are completely pulled out of my ***.

I am only presenting this method, to give you an idea about how to think of potential time hacks.

It even gives you a way of comparing difference hacks, to make it easier to decide on your next investment.

To be honest, making this rough calculation was kind of an eye-opener for myself, and now I have to think even deeper about whether to get myself a new watch or not 🙂

An 80/20 analysis of your health strategies

After a few years spent, calling myself a biohacker, I have come to the unfortunate conclusion, that many of the available strategies in the alternative health field are an utterly waste of time and money.

This particular feeling was perfectly crystallized in my mind, when I read the amazing book Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, which illustrates how most of the health-talk and the nutritionism out there, isn’t based on a solid foundation of science.

They say the more you know, the better you know what you don’t know. And as I have gone deeper and deeper into the world of health and nutrition, the more uncertainty and unknowns have shown up. We basically don’t know very much, for sure, about what makes us happier, healthier or smarter – consistently – in terms of health strategies.

Whenever you find out that some new health trend is based on low-quality science, you repeatedly end up going back to a few truths, which we can always count on, if we want to get healthier, like:

– Eating some vegetables

– Sleeping enough

– Doing some exercise, and stay active during the day

– Having some meaningful social relationships

– Practicing a little meditation, if you want to get really fancy

Every time we shy away from these very simple ideas, we have very little certainty about what a health strategy does for us in the long run.

Sure, it might seem like taking a fancy supplement with exotic ingredients looks great on paper (or in a petri dish). But our bodies are so incredibly complicated and poorly understood, that we rarely know how the whole system responds to a new influence – especially long-term, since many studies never run for more than a few weeks.

So, as I advocate we save our hard-earned money, for the truly important things in life, I will also argue that we shouldn’t waste resources on health strategies that aren’t substantiated by good science – otherwise we are just gambling with our money.

It makes perfect sense to spend money on a strategy that is going to enhance your ability to live up to one of the five principles I listed above.

But if you consider jumping on a new complicated bandwagon in health, you’d better do your homework properly first, to avoid wasting time and energy on something that makes very little or no difference at all in your life.

On setting the bar lower

It should be perfectly obvious, that a person who needs very little, has a higher than average chance of having “enough”.
Someone who lives his life in a manner, that indicates he can’t get enough, probably won’t.
This is simple, but the implications of this truth goes further in my view.

A person who dreams of doing creative painting as a profession, can only achieve this, by becoming sufficiently succesful as a painter, that it can provide him with enough (or more). The more he needs, the more succesful he has to get in order to stay in the game.

The simplistic lifestyle can therefore be considered an enabler of dreams.
Whatever you dream of doing with your life, can potentially be materialized by lowering the basic requirements of your lifestyle. It is my guess, that people who follows this advice has a higher rate of success in pursuing their true goals.

For me, cutting expenses, throwing out stuff and reprogramming my expectations of the future, was what helped me quit the job that I absolutely hated, and try something new. It made it a lot less scary.
I was fortunate enough, that I hadn’t let my needs rise in synchronicity with my income, and that allowed me to not get trapped, as I saw many of my former colleagues do.
Now, I am trying something else, and I love it – even though I don’t spend much money on luxury stuff; I don’t feel like it makes much of a difference on my long-term happiness.

If you are starting out from 0 (or in debt even), see how attainable you can make your ultimate goal, by lowering the bar for survival, before you begin putting in more work than necessary.

This is not about being unambitious. It is about ambitiously optimizing your chances of success – and learning about, what is truly valuable in life.

A minimalist drinks coffee

According to what I have observed, the average, modern minimalist/hipster type is a serious coffee snob.

You may, as an example, have seen The Minimalists promote the coffee house they co-own in Florida, or noticed how all minimalist community meetings are held in coffee houses that serves a top-of-the-line Americano.

But I actually think that this whole coffee fascination fits badly into the simple living ideology.
I get the feeling that many simplicity advocates, take all the money they save from living frugally and reallocates them into a new espresso machine, that can apply the perfect amount of pressure to the coffee-making process.

Thereafter comes the reoccurring extra expenses from supplying oneself with single-estate organic coffee from Kenya, that is so sour that only the supreme connoisseur can enjoy it.

This is not to say, that I am against coffee as a hobby. I just see it used as a tool for signaling that you are part of the group way too often.

And as with everything else, the danger of becoming a connoisseur is that you loose the ability to enjoy an average tasting/feeling/looking product. You loose the ability to see how privileged you are, when you drink an average cup of coffee, compared to what options people had available 100 years ago.

The author, Ryan Holiday, explains it so nicely when he says that he refuses to fly first class because he knows how that soon will be the new norm for him.

The bottom line is, I personally try not to get too heavily into the coffee universe, even though I love coffee. I have tried it, but I have also noticed how much self-deception and placebo effect is involved – just like with wine.

 

How I do

I have even experimented a lot with my own brewing techniques, and found that the way they do it on Bali is the best and simplest one.

The Balinese people simply grinds the beans into an extremely fine texture, put about 1.5 teaspoons of the grounds in a cup, dump boiling water on it and stir.

After a few minutes, the grounds falls to the bottom of the cup, and you are ready to drink – just make sure you stop drinking a little earlier than you normally would, to avoid eating the grounds.

There are 3 reasons why I love making coffee this way:

  1. The coffee is unfiltered, which means you keep the precious coffee oils, that both taste good and have some cool effects on your health.
  2. The method is very efficient, in terms how many beans it requires.
  3. The coffee can be made without any equipment, which means you can make your coffee on the road, and you won’t have to buy any kind of machine for it.

This is, by my standards, the best way to drink coffee as a minimalist.

I am not poor

…. is what I would like to have several family members and friends understand.

Most of them hear me explain, that I am running a lifestyle experiment, in which I try to observe how heavy time and money respectfully weighs on either side of life’s happiness scale.

You only need to look for a guy like Epicurus, to find out other people in history has asked this question before.

 

I am not poor, I just avoid spending a lot of the money that I earn, because I feel like they are a tremendous tool for feeling secure, once kept, and on the other hand, evaporates all too quickly from my psyche and memory, once spent.
It is not that I wouldn’t enjoy a luxury item like a nice car. I have already owned a luxury car once in my life, and what I noticed, was that the happiness it brought me was extremely temporary, while the worries and anxiety that came with it were very long lasting. Mostly because I couldn’t really afford it.

 

I sometimes wonder why many talk to me like I am poor, even though they are well aware of the fact, that our compared net worths are all in my favor. Talking to me, implicitly, like I am poor, seems to stem from an insecurity they feel in themselves about their own financial choices.

It sure seems like I am able to make them question, whether many of their own decisions were all worth it.

I am not poor, I just think a lot about how to live life optimally, and sometimes you need to live without something, to find out if you will really miss it.

Working More Than Necessary

This post will only be applicable to those who don’t absolutely love their jobs. That should be around half of the readers (1). You may, therefore, skip this one if you are totally satisfied at work.

Not long ago, I quit my first real “adult” job, because I wasn’t happy there.

After having been there for more than 2 and a half year, I was realizing that the hamster wheel wasn’t getting any more enjoyable, and if I was ever going to become as “happy” as my co-workers, I would have to become a lot less happy myself.

For the past year and a half, I had been on this minimalism journey too, where I would carefully evaluate everything I did financially, judging it by how happy it made me.

In which ways did I spend money, that didn’t make my life happier or better?

In which ways did my spending actually create stress and worries?

I still haven’t perfected the optimal lifestyle yet – where every dollar I spend is completely worth it – but I sure have come a long way since the beginning.

By way of this thinking, it suddenly occurred to me, how a big percentage of my monthly paycheck was beginning to end up in my bank account, untouched, because my expenses were radically decreasing. I was putting aside more than half of my salary for many consecutive months, and it dawned on me that I was doing much more work than I needed to, in a job that I did not like at all!

So I decided to quit .

Now, I’ve switched to a part-time position, as a personal trainer, which is actually much more enjoyable than my last job, and I earn just about enough to cover my monthly expenses.

This new job doesn’t come with the same amount of social status and approval from my parents in law, but that is just something I/they will have to get over.

The best part is that I’ve now gotten the time to work on stuff, that I actually love. I have a ton of projects that I would like to start working on, just because I want to, and whatever they end up paying me is pretty irrelevant.

As an example, this blog post is probably going to earn me a very small amount of money over it’s lifetime, with the Google ad I put in it. However, that should be regarded as an added bonus, as I would have written it no matter what the earning potential was.

The main point is, that I am now doing exactly the amount real “work” that I need to. Not more.

This strategy frees up a lot of time to do exactly what I feel like, and I may even think this could be the smartest decision, in terms of earning money, in case one of my passion projects end up a success.

So far I am happy with my decision to not work more than necessary.

The Background Picture On My Phone

Once in awhile, you come across something that inspires you, something you wish you could integrate into your bones. You want it to become part of who you are.

This happened to me recently.

I listened to the Q&A episode of the Time Ferriss Show with Jocko Willink, where Jocko said something that really changed how I think an important topic, and I immediately thought: “I must not forget this message”. I wanted to make it a part of my life.

The question Jocko was answering, was about an artist’s discipline. Jocko is BIG on discipline, and the listener wanted to know, how an artist could apply his principles of discipline at times of low inspiration.

If an artist didn’t “feel like it” on a given day, how could he get up early in the morning and start showcasing his disciplined spirit?

I really perked up my ears when I heard this question, because I usually tell myself, that I am excused for not writing, if I am not particularly “feeling it”.

Well, as usual, Jocko can make you feel like a weakling for carrying such a mind-set.

His response was basically, that you must do your work every goddamn day – regardless of whether you are inspired or not. You need to practice to get better. And if only 1% of what you produce is any good, you are still closer to your end-goal than before.

If you are a painter, you must get up and force the paint onto the canvas.

The sculptor must force the clay together.

And the writer must force the words onto the paper.

It was especially the last part that resonated with me, because I fantasize about becoming a writer one day, and I therefore immediately thought that I must integrate this idea into who I am.

I therefore, wrote a note on my phone that said “force the words onto the paper”,

took a screenshot of it, and made it the background image on my phone.

That way, I am reminded of the idea every day, in a non-intrusive way, and I find it immensely helpful for really remembering something inspirational.

Try it yourself, if you want to live by a quote or something. We all look at our phones a million times a day anyway ?

Max