Living Life Progressively

Before you get too far into this blog post, I just want to make it clear that this isn’t about progressivism in the political sense.

This is about a cornerstone of my personal philosophy of life, that I would like to share with you.

It is about living life in forward motion.

I believe, that most of the things we do in life, can either be regarded as actions that:

–        Move us forward

–        Or don’t

To me, it seems illogical to choose a stagnant way of living, where there is never any progress to see. On the other hand, I think it makes perfect sense, to want to strive for a life that will somehow be better tomorrow.

So what does this mean?

Obviously, it all depends on what you define as “a better life”.

But let’s just say, as an example – only because this is easy to understand – that you consider a wealthier life, a better life.

A progressive way of dealing with this would be to choose a frugal lifestyle, because this would allow you to grow your net worth every month – you spend less than you earn. You would also be able to invest your savings, and in that way, build slowly towards a wealthier life.

What the non-progressive type would do, would be to increase cash flow, but also increase spending proportionally.

(I have many friends like this. They all want to be rich, so they earn a lot, but save very little, which means they are ultimately poorer than my low-earning/frugal friends. They confuse the concept of “being rich” with “living a rich person’s life”.)

The main goal is to stand on a higher platform today, than what you did yesterday.

Here are some more examples, so you get my idea:

Progressiveness Non- Progressiveness
Saving something every month

Writing blog posts – Your blog accumulates value

Reading classic books – the ideas will always be relevant

Learning a new skill, that you can enjoy forever

Buying high-quality items, that will last forever

Sticking to classic ideas and concepts

Working on long-term and deeper relationships with people

Working on bigger and impactful projects

Etc.

Spending everything you get

Writing articles for a newspaper – it is worthless tomorrow

Reading the news – You will always have to keep up

Learning a new skill, that will only be relevant for a short time

Buying low-quality items, that will have to be replaced frequently

Following current fashion and trends

Working on short-term and shallow relationships with people

Working on small projects, that will only have short term impact

l  Etc.

And this is just to give you some examples.

 

You can actually make the distinction between the two, as being proactive and reactive.

The progressive type is proactive, because he decides in which way he wants to move his life forward.

The non-progressive type is reactive, because he constantly has to keep up with what’s in vogue, and therefore start from scratch next time the trends shift.

It makes it really easy – for me at least – to decide which type I want to be. I want to evolve and grow, and never be stuck in my place.

Thanks for reading.

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Further readings:

Part of this idea about sticking to the classics, is definitely stolen from Nassim Taleb’s book Anti-Fragile, which is one of my favorite books of all time.

You can read about sticking to a few long term projects, that has long lasting value in the book The Power of Less.

A Case For Not Checking

I remember a few years ago, when the general concept of “social media” was synonymous with “Facebook”. At that point, Twitter hadn’t blown up yet, and there was no Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp or what have you.

Those were simpler times…. 🙂

Nowadays, we constantly need to keep up with an ocean of apps, where friends can reach us, news can be delivered to us and stock portfolios can be checked.

In reality, this means you can always feel certain, that somewhere on your smartphone, there is a bit of information that was just updated and that it still hasn’t reached your eyeballs yet.

This further means, that there is always a new little reward/dopamine/adrenaline rush to be had, every time you want it. You just need to check for it.

Now, is there anything wrong with this? Little rewards here and there throughout the day sounds lovely, doesn’t it? WRONG!

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this stuff recently, and come to the conclusion, that it both kills our productivity and happiness in the long run. And let me explain why.

 

Checking kills your productivity

Remember in school, when you had a report due the next day, how suddenly you felt the urge to clean your room? Obviously, this was just basic procrastination, but what it specifically did, was give you an easy feeling of accomplishment, instead of going through the drudgery of actually completing the report.

Later on, you found yourself writing the report at 3 AM, when the time pressure had become so immense, that you no longer had a choice but to write.

The final result would be stress, lower quality of work and a longer time to finish.

Today, instead of cleaning your room, you can just choose to manically check stuff on your computer or smartphone, whenever you want to procrastinate and feel rewarded.

This gives you a falls sense of accomplishment by completing something, that was totally unimportant.  As a result, the big and meaningful rewards will only be delayed due to the many premature rewards.

 

Kills your happiness

The second part of my argument is just an extension of the first.

I believe, that true happiness in life is partially comprised of some sense of meaningful accomplishment.

That means, if all you aim for, is the small and meaningless rewards, like checking your Facebook account, you won’t improve your long-term quality of life, compared to finishing bigger and tougher projects.

 

How to?

I have now made the case, that we should try and stop checking our smartphones several times a day, because it distracts us from the truly important. This will also enable us to stay more present throughout the day.

But how? Below, I suggest a few tips on how to start making this change. It is a tough habit to cultivate in the beginning, just like anything else, and it won’t come overnight. But the following tips have worked for me so far:

 

Be mindful. Try and see, if you can notice the urge to check, before you actually do it. Most times, it is totally automatic, so it would be best to stop yourself and ask, why you need to check whatever you want to check.

Are you sure, that it cannot wait? I’m sure that it can.

Delete non-essential apps from your phone. This point is self-explanatory, but decide what is non-essential, and what is necessary for your day to day life. Also, think about what can be checked on the computer instead, with lesser frequency.

Decrease the number of platforms for communication. As I said earlier, people can reach each other in too many ways nowadays. Which ones do you use (email, SMS, Facebook, Slack, Snapchat, iMessage)? Are there any of them, you can opt out of, in order to simplify your life, and maintain focus?

Set fixed times for checking. Of course, some things do need to be checked sometimes. Therefore, it can be useful to create artificial boundaries, to keep the checking under control. For instance, tell yourself, that you can check X every morning, and then that’s it for the day.

 

That’s it guys, I hope you liked the post, and that it will help you staying more focused in your day to day life.

 

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For further readings on the idea of staying more focused, check out:

–        The One Thing

–        The Power of Less

–        Essentialism

Quality As a Way of Life

Recently I have gotten immensely fascinated with a guy named Josh Waitzkin. He is the author of The Art of Learning, world champion in chess and tai chi and a high level Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner.

He has been on two episodes of the Tim Ferriss podcast now, so check those out, if you want to learn more about him.

One of the things he talks a lot about is a concept called “quality as a way of life”. What I personally translate this into is: the pursuit of perfection in everything that you do.

Obviously, it is impossible to do everything in life perfectly, but it is never too late to try and reach for this impossible goal.

This is not about making perfection the criteria for contentment, or even the criteria for anything actually. It is just about having an internal compass, and a healthy set of habits, that will guide you onto the right path at all times.

I love this idea, and I will start incorporating into my life today.

 

If you also want to try this, it will imply two things for you:

You must be mindful. You cannot rush perfection. You cannot fake quality. You must be fully present at all times, and completely aware of what you are doing right now. This makes the concept very closely related to mindfulness.

You must be an essentialist. You cannot take on too many projects or obligations. You must stay focused on only a few things, otherwise, you risk spreading yourself too thin, and you cannot do anything perfectly this way. (Read the book Essentialism for more)  

So to live the life of quality, you must combine mindfulness and essentialism/minimalism – it is no wonder I feel intrigued!

 

The exercise is, to constantly stop in whatever you do, and remind yourself about doing it with quality, until it becomes a habit.

Take your time, take your breaks, think about what it is you are doing right now – how can you do it better? Do you even have to do the thing you are doing?

If something is worth doing, do it with quality.

Be selective and be critical.

 

Breathe with quality.

Talk to your partner with quality.

Work with quality.

Walk with quality.

Read your book with quality.

 

I have always been a quantity over quality kind of guy.

My mantra has been “if it is good enough, I am done”.

Now, I am striving towards a new mantra, that will flip this on its head: “I am not done until its perfect”.

But I am also not going to focus on anything unimportant from now on – I won’t have time for that.

 

What do you guys think?

Would you join me in living this life of quality?

 

Further reading recommendations about the subject:

–        The Power of Less

–        The One Thing

Define Your Values

We all know we have values. But if I suddenly decided to ask you, what your values are specifically, you might have to sit down and think about it for a few moments, before you’d be ready with a concrete answer.

For most people, their values are something undefined. They know they have them, they’ve just rarely articulated them very well. This was the case for me too, until recently.

I heard The Minimalist advice someone on their podcast, to decline a job offer that wasn’t aligned with their personal values – and I agreed, of course – but what does it really mean, if one hasn’t defined his personal values on a granular level yet?

It made me sit down and think, and define my own values. I tried to come up with some very simple words that indicate everything I want for myself.

The 4 words I came up with was:

–        Freedom

–        Growth

–        Love

–        Peace

 

I’ll shortly explain them here;

 

Freedom

Freedom is very important to me. It is the sole reason why I promote minimalism and productivity on the blog. I want space and time to do whatever I want, as often as possible. I really hate it when I am constrained or told what to do.

 

Growth

I feel like I am dying when I am not growing. It is the reason why I read a lot, the reason why I train and the reason why I try to learn something new every day.

 

Love

I think this applies to most people, but it is a high priority for me anyway. If I am not in a position in life, where I am able to show my love and appreciation for the people closest to me, I am not in the right place.

 

Peace

I am an introvert, I am a stoner, I am a loner, I am a nerd. I like meditation, reading and silence. I don’t like partying, concerts and I don’t get high on stress.

 

Those are my values. It feels good to have them fully defined. I’ll always now know: in case I am offered an opportunity to do something, which is going to impair my ability to live in accordance with these values, I should turn it down.

 

Ex:

Taking a 30-year loan to buy a house will implicate my freedom.

Working 80 hours a week is going to prevent me from spending time and show love for my fiancée.

Taking on too many projects at a time is going to mess with my peace of mind.

 

Defining your personal values like this makes it easier to navigate life.

What are your personal values?

The Easy Way of Engineering a New Good Habits

If a friend was to ask me: how do I create a new good habit?

This is the link I would send to him.

 

Great blogs and good books have been written on the subject of habits. And it is not a mystery why, because if you control your habits, you control the trajectory of your life.

This is a quick how-to guide that will get you started. Later on, you might want to read more on the subject, if you find it necessary.

 

Find a fixture point

If you had to hang a painting on a wall, you would begin by looking for a nail in the wall to hang it on to.

If your day is the blank wall, the nail is an existing habit.

Find an existing habit in your daily routine, to hang your new habit on to.

 

If you want to do 10 push-ups a day, do it before you brush your teeth, right after you get out bed or right before dinner.

Instead of starting completely from scratch, you can build on existing habits this way.

 

Start small

Always set the bar for success as low as possible.

If you want to start meditating – start with 1 minute at a time.

If you want to start running – start with 1 kilometer at a time.

If you want to start eating healthy– start with breakfast.

 

You can always scale up later on, and on most days, you’ll end up doing more than you planned to anyway.

This makes it real easy to succeed and stick to it.

 

Make it easy – remove the obstacles

Pack your gym bag a day in advance.

Plan your week of eating healthy.

Ask your roommate to distribute a daily cigarette allowance to you.

Make it easy to win when the willpower meter is low.

 

Decide your reward

I always have a glass of wine in the evening on training days. This is reward works as very basic programming of my brain – like dog training.

How will you treat yourself if you stick to your goal?

Of course, don’t be stupid about it. Don’t reward yourself with a cheeseburger for every jumping jack you do.

 

Stay with it for 1 month

It takes a little time before the new programming starts to work.

Some science says it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Others believe it takes 66 days.

Either way, if you just stick to something for at least 1 month, you will have a pretty good idea if it is worth it to you or not.

 

Move on to the next one

Once the new habit feels automatic to you, you can move on to the next thing.

Do you want to do more of the same thing, or do you want a new habit?

It’s all up to you. Just make sure not to rush it. You can’t move on to the next thing too quickly. The first habit reeeeally needs to be on autopilot before you move on.

 

Happy selfprogramming!

A Life of Luxury Isn’t Worth It

Two of my favorite philosophers – Seneca and Epicurus – said it around 2000 years ago:

A life on the hunt for wealth and luxury is poorly spend.

Epicurus was the originator of the commune. He would advise people to move in together with the people they loved, work for a few hours a day, just to get their bare necessities and enjoy lots of leisure time and creative endeavors.

This idea has really resonated with me the last couple of years.

When you make the simple calculation for how much time you need to give up to pay for luxury items, say a new  BMW, you really see it this from a sobering perspective.

 

In Denmark, where I come from:

  • A new nice BMW might cost you 1 MIO DKK (all taxes included)
  • A fairly standard hourly wage, after tax is 100 DKK, but let’s say you are a high-earner and get double = 200 DKK
  • The standard working week here is 37 hours, but let’s say you are willing to dedicate your life to paying for the BMW and work double = 74 hours

This means you would have to give up:

1.000.000/200/74/52 = 1.3 years

No vacation, no holiday. And this is assuming, you pay for the car in cash – which nobody does.

Are you willing to give up more than a year of your relatively short life, just to be able to drive a nice car, that most likely, will be MUCH less exciting to you in 5-10 years?

And if you want to lead a life of luxury in general, we haven’t even begun talking about the fancy house, the boat or vacation home.

 

Obviously, I can’t say anything bad about people who loves their job, earns a nice salary and spends it on things they enjoy, like a nice car.

However, if luxury and wealth have become the primary goal of one’s life, and work is seen as tedious and as a pain, I have to assume you are getting a bad deal in the end. The amount of time you need to give up is simply too high for it to be worth it.

Rather accept what you’ve already got, and learn to be happy where you are. Do work you are passionate about, and if that allows for a more spendy lifestyle, fine! Just never let it be the reason for why you do anything.

To myself.

6 Things Free People Does

My greatest mission in life is to achieve maximum freedom. Period.

This has become clear to me the last few years.

I think, this all stems from having parents that did very little to control me. It has made me the type of person that hates restrictions, is skeptical of authority and weary of unnecessary obligations.

I am therefore on a quest to find the freest possible way to live, so both you and I can emulate it.

So far, the following is what I have concluded about how free people lead their lives.

 

Free people:

Doesn’t let technology control their life – they use it to maximize freedom. It was the original promise of the technological revolution – more time for leisure and fun – but most people haven’t seen it yet. Take control over your smartphone, laptop, Facebook, Twitter. Don’t let it be the other way around.

 

Work for themselves. Having a controlling boss can be a great drain on your freedom and personal creativity. Working for yourself is the ultimate freedom – generating automatic income is even better.

Free people work on new passion projects all the time.

You might not have the perfect business plan that is going to earn you millions, and that’s okay – I don’t either. But I have taken the initial steps to make my own first few dollars here and there as a place to start.

 

Own few things. The more stuff you own, the more it will end up owning you. Become a minimalist . That will allow you to quickly move your whole life from one place to another.

Owning a lot of stuff will always cost you time, money and ultimately freedom.

 

Does not worry about other people’s opinion. This might be the most obvious point in this post, but also the most important and difficult to master.

I currently have a Chinese colleague, who wants to go home to her home country and family very badly, but is unable to do so, because she is afraid that other people might think that she has had an unsuccessful trip to my country. So she forces herself to stay her for another few YEARS. She is heavily restricted in her freedom, due to her worry for other people’s opinion.

 

Makes their own criteria for success. Most people choose to strive for goals that have been given to them by society or their environment. Where I come from, a normal person might work towards getting a nice home, a nice car or a perfect family. Free people, on the other hand, might stop and think about, what exactly they want for themselves. It could be a deeper relationship with their partner or more time for hobbies.

 

Shows discipline. Like Jocko Willink says in the book Extreme Ownership: Discipline = Freedom.

It is hard to do things your own way. It is hard to go against the current. It requires bravery and discipline to stay on the path you have selected for yourself. It is easier to stay in a pattern that someone else has forced you into.

 

Stay strong.

7 ways to let your employer have less power over you

One of the most unfortunate aspects of living in a capitalist economy is the ability of an employer to induce fear and create stress in his/hers employees.

Employers have incredible power because of this.

The obvious foundation for this power is rooted in their inherent ability, to cut off the primary income stream of an employee, by deciding to fire them.

Of course, an employer can make life a misery for an employee, by other means than just firing or threatening to fire. He can make inappropriate remarks or create an uncomfortable work environment – but we still must realize, that the only real power an employer has, is to provide us with a job or not.

If he treats us badly, we always have the option to walk away. Then we lose our job, of course, and it therefore only boils down to whether or not we have a job.

The only circumstance in which this power has any significance to us, is if we are addicted to our jobs. So in reality, this article is actually about how to become unaddicted or independent of your job – financially. If we can achieve this, our boss loses his power to scare us.

(If you have become addicted to your job for other reasons than financial ones, you might have built your identity on your job description – I then feel for you, and I don’t know how to save you. You can’t let this happen.)

Here are my 7 tips for how to become less dependent on your job.:

 

  1. Become a minimalist

We have established so far, that the only real thing an employer can give you is a job/money. If you become less dependent on your paycheck, your boss loses his power over you.

I have written a lot about how to become a minimalist on this site, but all you really need to do is stop wasting your money on the unnecessary stuff. That way, you will need way less, and you will need your boss less and less.

 

  1. Be frugal

If you begin living frugally in general terms, you will become less dependent on your job too. If you cancel all of your crazy monthly subscriptions for magazines and newspapers, if you stop wasting your hard earned money on lattes and junk food, you won’t depend on your job as much.

 

  1. Pay off debt

Once you stop wasting your money on the unnecessary, you will find yourself with some extra cash in your pocket. Use it to pay off credit card loans and other expensive debt. I think this stage will have the greatest impact on your independence.

 

  1. Start saving

When all the loans have been paid off, you start putting your spare cash away for a rainy day. That way, if your boss decides to fire you, you will be okay because you have built up a comfortable buffer. This will allow you to be a lot less stressed out if you hear rumors about new firing rounds in the company.

 

  1. Get insurance

I am currently a member of a union, where I can buy insurance that covers me if I get fired. Because of this, I sometimes hope that I will get fired from my job. My boss has no power!

However, when the glorious day comes, where I can retire, I will obviously cancel this insurance policy.

 

  1. Create a new income stream

Something that will make you truly free from the angst of losing your current job is by finding another way of making money.

How would you feel about driving for Uber for a few hours every Saturday? You could always up-scale that job in case of an emergency.

What if you had two part-time jobs instead of one full-time? That would make you much less vulnerable to being fired.

This is a thought strategy, adopted from my favorite book Anti-Fragile , by Nassim Taleb.

 

  1. Create automatic income

Having automatic income is just great in general, and there are tons of ways you can do it. Start a blog, a Youtube channel, create a drop shipping web store or get into investing.

Automatic income will be your backup mechanism, that earns extra cash for you – even while you are on vacation.

 

What about you guys?

Do you utilize any strategies, to minimize the power your boss has over you?

 

Thanks for reading.

“You don’t want to be the guy that owns the boat”

This is absolutely brilliant.

I just heard the comedian Bill Burr say the above sentence on Jerry Seinfeld’s show Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee .

You really need to see the episode, but the implication of it was this: you don’t want to be the guy who owns the boat – he needs to deal with all the harbor fees, maintenance and so on. Instead, you want to be the friend who can come on the boat, hang out, and be the hero of the day for bringing a six pack.

Of course, this is not about being a moocher and taking advantage of other people. This is about all of the great things you can enjoy in life, without being the owner of things.

For example:

  • Nature is nice, but you don’t need to own a garden to enjoy it. You can go to a park or a forest to enjoy it.
  • The beach is nice, but you don’t need to own one to enjoy it.
  • I love books , but I don’t need to own them to enjoy them. So I go to the public library and benefit from a much larger collection than I could fit into my apartment.
  • A car can be nice, but there are so many services now, that allows you to rent one on demand for a very fair price. I rent an electricity driven BMW on my smartphone every time I need a car. This makes it completely irrelevant for me to own my own car. A car is almost as big of a headache as a boat.

Not owning a lot of stuff results in fewer commitments and an easier life.

Stuff you own also depreciates in value. Saving from not owning, and keeping your money invested instead, makes you money.

Have a nice day!

8 Lessons Learned From a Horrible Job

I have been working at a job that I don’t enjoy for almost 2 years now. It is uninspiring, it is time-consuming, it is filled with joyless people.

But spending so much time at this job, has taught me some great lessons about life, which I am grateful for. If you are working at a horrible job too, I advise you to take note of the following lessons, and be grateful for them:

 1: Time is valuable – don’t waste it. When you waste 8-9 hours a day already, you get extremely aware of this fact, and you notice how well you spend your spare time.

2: Be nice to people. If you have a boss that makes your life horrible, recognize this power he has over your day, and do the opposite, next time you have the same power over others.

3: Spend money wisely. When you spend your money, while holding a crappy job, you basically exchange the hours you spend there for goods and services. You need to try and only spend money on the bare necessities, or on stuff that makes you at least as happy, as the job is making you unhappy.

4: Freedom is everything. Having to spend half of your day in a place you want to be, is a massive loss of personal freedom. You therefore need to become an expert in optimizing the rest of your day for personal freedom .

5: Appreciate what you have. When life gives you lemons, you need to learn to enjoy the sour taste. You can learn to be appreciative in all circumstances – it only takes practice and belief. Parts of life could always be better, but they could also be much much worse. So learn to appreciate what you already have. This is something the old stoic philosophers were preaching as well.

6: Learn from adversity. Every tough situation you face is an opportunity for you to learn. Is someone screaming at you at work? Practice how to be calm. You don’t want to take your bike to work today? Practice mental toughness/discipline.

7: Be efficient. You get a lot of tasks and you don’t want to do them – they are boring to you. So learn how to work efficiently, so you can be done with them faster. Check out some of my productivity posts , or study the Less Doing method.

8: Find out what’s important. When you don’t have the whole day to yourself, you need to decide what’s most important to you and prioritize. Otherwise, you might regret how you spend your spare time. This is a valuable lesson to learn.

What about you? What have you learned from working an unenjoyable job?