21 Easy Hacks to Simplify Your Life

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.” – Henry David Thoreau

Originally written by Leo Babauto and published on Zen Habits

If you’re trying to simplify your life, it’s best to follow the four simple stepsI’ve outlined before — it’s just the simplest method.

But sometimes life gets in the way, and you need a workaround, some way to get past your usual obstacles and to trick yourself into keeping things simple.

I use these “hacks” myself (in this case, “hacks” refers to workarounds or tricks to reach your goal), and I’ve found them to be effective in many cases. Please note that you might have read some of these once or twice (or thrice) on this blog before, but I thought it would be a useful resource to gather them all into one post.

Also, don’t try to implement all of them — that would be far from simple. Not all of them will apply to your life anyway. Pick one or two and try them out.

Simple tricks to simplify your life:

  1. Three-box decluttering. If you’re trying to declutter a room, drawer, shelf, desk … use three boxes to quickly sort everything. Just quickly go through each shelf or drawer or flat surface at once, putting things into three separate boxes: Trash, Donate, Maybe. The first two boxes are obvious … the Maybe box is for stuff you’re not too sure about — you can put this in storage for a few months and decide later. Put everything else — the stuff you love and use — back neatly.
  2. Create a no-distractions zone. This is great for when you want to do some focused work — which is just about every day for most of us. Create a zone with no distractions — no phones, no email, no co-workers or kids or spouses, nothing on the walls, no IM or Twitter, no web surfing. Just the tools you need to do your work and nothing else. You could also create a time within your schedule for this distraction-free zone — say 8-10 a.m., for example. No distractions within that block of time. You can do email and phone calls before and after, but not during. I like this hack for when I need to do some writing but have a hard time concentrating.
  3. Create a short-list. This is for the big-picture simplifying. If you’re having a hard time getting your life to something truly simple, create a short list of things you love doing most. This should be 4-5 things. For me, that’s writing, reading, running and spending time with my family. Your short list will be different. Then, try to eliminate everything in your life that’s not on the short list, to make room for the things you love.
  4. Deflect all requests for a week. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, make the decision that you will not say “yes” to any new requests this week. If you get a new request, politely decline. If it’s a request you can’t decline, tell them you’ll get to it next week because you have some projects you need to finish this week. Then pick one or two or even three projects (depending on their sizes) and focus on finishing them this week. You can worry about new stuff next week. Repeat this hack when needed.
  5. Go schedule-less. This works well if you’ve been over-packing your schedule. Try this: set a policy that you won’t schedule any appointments. This won’t work for some people who have mandatory meetings, but if you control your schedule, you can tell people, “I’m sorry, I don’t make appointments anymore. Call me on that day and we’ll see how things are going.” Leave your day wide open. At the beginning of the day, pick a few things to focus on and try to get them done. If you need to meet with someone, call them and meet.
  6. Single-task. This is good for those who tend to be all over the place. I’ve talked about it many times before: don’t allow yourself to switch between tasks. When you’re working on a report or writing an article, don’t do anything else. When you’re processing email, get to empty and do nothing else. One task at a time … finish the task … move on to the next. Try this for one day, focusing on it completely for that day. If it works for you, try it again the next day.
  7. Start your day with peace. I love this one, because it’s so easy to implement and yet it can have such a powerful effect on your day. When you first rise, do something that is calming and peaceful. That might be running or walking, having a quiet cup of coffee with a book, watching the sunrise, meditating or yoga … whatever works well for you. It can be 10 minutes or an hour, but find some peace in the morning and use it to calm you throughout your entire day. Read more.
  8. Eat only 7 things. If you’re trying to be healthful, but are having a hard time navigating complicated diets, try this hack to simplify things. Limit yourself to non-packaged foods. Eat only seven things: fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, lean calcium, beans, nuts, good fats. Nothing from a box. This will require that you cook your food, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Read more.
  9. Go paperless. This works great for certain types of jobs — mine, for example. It won’t work for other jobs. But if you can do it, you can save time filing, save time searching for stuff, save space, simplify your office, and save a few trees to boot. First, insist that everything be sent via email or through online documents. Then create a filing system that works for you. Personally, I like to keep things online, and just archive and search rather than creating a complicated hierarchy of folders, but you might prefer a more traditional system on your hard drive. Do what works best for you. For those things that can only be sent via paper, scan and toss. Try to limit the scanning, and request that things be sent electronically.
  10. Go media free. If your life is filled with information overload, and you find little time to do the things you love to do, consider eliminating media from your life, at least temporarily. This includes cable TV, DVDs, newspapers and magazines, Internet news and the like. Now, I’m not saying you should eliminate the things you love. For myself, I would never eliminate reading books, for example. You might love a certain TV show — in that case, eliminate everything else. You can go media free for a week to see if it improves your life, and then consider extending it for longer. This hack won’t work for everyone, but I enjoy it.
  11. Limit yourself to 3 tasks. If your to-do list is long and overwhelming, pick three tasks you want to do today — important tasks that aren’t just urgent but actually have a long-lasting impact on your life. Focus on getting these three tasks done before anything else. If you finish early, you can either call it a day or get some bonus tasks done. Read more.
  12. Limit yourself to one project. How many projects are you juggling right now? If there are too many, you might be limiting your effectiveness. Instead, focus on one project right now, and put the others on the back-burner. Try to get that one project done as quickly as possible, and then work on the next one. Read more.
  13. 5-sentence emails. This works well if you spend too much time writing emails. I got the idea from Mike Davidson, who advocates limiting each email to five sentences or fewer. This forces you to keep your emails brief and to the point. It limits the amount of time you use doing email. And it forces you to decide what’s important in each email. I generally follow this rule (though I break it from time to time) … and if you get short emails from me, you now understand why.
  14. 30-day rule. This is a fantastic hack for those (like me) who have trouble with impulse buying — that great enemy of simplifying. The rule is that if you want to buy something, you have to write it on your 30-day list, with the date that it was added to the list. After 30 days, if you still want it, you can buy it. This doesn’t apply to necessities such as groceries … which helps you distinguish between wants and needs, a great skill for simplifying.
  15. Only wear a few colors. I actually do this, and it helps me simplify my wardrobe. I basically wear only black, blue, grey and green, with some browns thrown in now and then. This means that it’s very easy for me to match my clothes, and I don’t need a lot of clothes. You’ll have other colors you love to wear — build your wardrobe around them. This won’t work for people who love having lots of clothes in a wide range of colors, but for myself, it keeps things nice and simple — and I don’t like thinking about clothes anyway.
  16. One in, two out. When you bring something into your house, you have to get rid of two things. The normal rule is one in, one out, but somehow that never seems to work — things still accumulate. Instead, get rid of two things and things will stay simple.
  17. Work four days a week. Of course not everyone can set their own schedule, but if you have that luxury, limit yourself to four days a week — 8 hours or less. You might even set it to 6 hours if you can manage that. And then make it three days. But how can you work only four days if you currently work 5 and are overloaded as it is? It’s funny, but you can somehow make it work. It’s a well-known law that our work expands to fit the time we give it … and the flip side of that is if you shrink the time, you will shrink the work to fit the time. If you only have four days in a work week, you will pick the most important tasks. You will get the work done that needs to be done, and you’ll naturally eliminate the rest. You’ll set a schedule that works. You’ll delegate and outsource and automate and eliminate. And you’ll have an extra day off. Try it and see — I bet you can manage it.
  18. Retire early. This is a radical hack, but it can work for some people. In fact, it’s worked for many. Simply set an early retirement date (maybe even next year!) and force yourself to save up the money you need. Take a mini-retirement if necessary. Then go back to work and save up for your next mini-retirement. Or set your early retirement in five or 10 years, and then never go back to work. It sounds unrealistic, but if you look at it this way, you can save the money you need to retire. It means forcing yourself to make choices — do you want to spend impulsively now, or retire early? If you cut back on spending you can save more. Live simply and frugally and invest the difference. Make more money in the short term so you don’t need to work as much later.
  19. Limit storage space. Do you tend to save everything? Have tons of stuff in storage, in closets or attics or garages or cupboards? The less storage you have, the less stuff you’ll save — which will save you the stress of having to go through all that storage to find stuff, to organize stuff, to maintain stuff, to get rid of old stuff. A good example is my desk — I work on a table with no drawers. This means I don’t have all the usual stuff in a desk, and forces me to keep things simple. You can apply this to all areas of life if you like.
  20. Staunch your information flow. Similar to the media fast, you can cut back on the amount of information coming into your life. Do you currently have tons of emails coming in? Find ways to reduce them — unsubscribe to mailing lists, ask people to stop sending you joke or chain emails (or block them from your inbox), automatically filter things you don’t really need to read, pre-empt common questions with an FAQ. Do you read a lot of blog feeds? Unsubscribe to those that don’t give you value. Do you read a lot of news? Pick one news source instead of five.
  21. Send only five emails a day. I did this for a little while and loved it. I would pick five important emails to respond to, and that was it. The rest would be delayed or deleted. I ended up prioritizing, and while some people didn’t get a response, I also didn’t spend all my time in email. It freed me, and made me realize that I don’t have to respond to every email — people will make do.

“Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.” – Edwin Way Teale

17 Small Things To Do Every Day To Be Much Smarter

Written by  and originally published on LifeHack.

Intelligence is flexible and there are a lot of things to give it a daily boost. For smart thinking your mind needs 3 things:

  1. To be trained in thinking processes
  2. To have plenty of information
  3. To focus on a problem or idea

For example, Thomas Edison was able to think of his light bulb because:

  1. He was a trained logical thinker
  2. He knew a lot about electrical engineering
  3. He focused on solving a problem

Here are a bunch of things to do every day to help your mind to think smart.

1. Drink 2 glasses of water within 30 minutes of waking up

Since you’ve been asleep for hours, your body has not gotten water for 6-9 hours. Water is needed for the filtration of waste products and fluid balance. Two big glasses of water offset the fluid deficit you had from sleeping. Studies on kids (study 1, study 2) show that drinking more water increases their ability to complete mental tasks. Make sure your brain is not dehydrated at the beginning of the day already.

2. Read a book summary during breakfast

Reading books is great, but breakfast is far more suitable for something shorter. Instead of reading news articles that have little impact on your life/intelligence, read best selling book summaries. You can find summaries by:

  • Googling your book title + summary, for example “7 Habits of Highly Effective People summary”
  • Use a summary subscription like Blinkist or getAbstract

3. Listen to stimulating podcasts/audiobooks during your commute

Even if you spend only 10 minutes on your bike like I do, load your phone up with intellectually stimulating audio. Good sources could be:

  • TED talks (their app lets you pre-download audio so you don’t eat your mobile data)
  • Blinkist has some of their summaries in audio form
  • Audiobooks you purchased
  • Podcast of your favorite authors

4. Drink green tea while working

Where caffeine makes many people anxious, green tea (especially Matcha tea) contains l-theanine. This aminoacid causes an increase in alpha brain waves in the brain:1-s2.0-S0924224499000448-gr3In practice this means that where coffee can induce anxiety, high quality green teas cause a relaxed focus without inducing sleepiness. This is also why l-theanine is available as a supplement to aid in relaxation and increasing cardiovascular health.

5. Take naps during the day

Napping helps your mind refresh. It’s been shown that napping during learning increases learning speed. Your mind has a rhythm that determines when it gets sleepy and when it needs sleep:Daily-Rhythm-Sleep-Wake-CycleAs you can see on average people feel more sleepy than usual between noon and 4 PM. This is a perfect time to have a nap, and will increase your alertness and productivity for the rest of the day. Personally I’ve has good results with post-workday naps too (around 6 PM).

6. Don’t take sugar during the day

In fact, if you can cut it altogether. But if you can’t for whatever reason, just make sure not to have it during times where you need to focus. Sugar highs and the following lows are not good to keep your brain functioning smartly. What does work very well are fatty acids. Try to switch any sweet stuff during lunch for something more substantial like fish or eggs.

7. Do social media / meme websites only a couple of times a day

The brain adapts to the information you throw at it. If you bombard it work non-stimulating and fast switching information your focus will get destroyed. Keep your brain functioning on a higher level by throwing stimulating things at it. If you feel the need to procrastinate, set a timer  and don’t get lost in mindlessly scrolling.

8. Play games instead of watching series or movies

Watching tv is a passive activity. Your brain is consuming information, but not processing or interacting with it. Substitute or supplement this entertainment with gaming. A 2014 study showed that even a simple game like Super Mario has visible impact on brain plasticity (flexibility). Another piece of research covered by Forbes shows the same. Actively engage your brain where you can, instead of letting it slumber passively.

9. Read a book instead of watching tv

Similar to playing games instead of watching tv, reading a book is an active exercise for the brain. Where watching video entertainment is a passive consumption of information, reading a book requires your brain to actively construct mental images of what you are reading.

10. Do some programming

Programming is a great way to learn to think logically and in patterns. Coding used to be hard to learn but with free websites like Codeacademy and free/paid platforms like Udemy it is easy and fun to learn. Consider it the next level of puzzles. As an added advantage learning to code in your free time increases your employability in the job market.

11. Watch TED talks while cooking

Preparing dinner is a great time to catch up on some cutting edge developments in Technology, Education and Design (ted.com). It turns what would otherwise be downtime into a fascinating and stimulating block of time. It’s like watching the news, only you are watching the world’s most inspiring individuals talk about their work.

12. Do some simple exercises during the day

The body and the mind are strongly connected. Physical fitness helps the brain function well. You don’t however have to go to the gym every day to benefit from this (though you can of course). Doing some push-ups throughout the day and walking or skipping up some stairs has a great impact already. Try to do something physical every hour or so, even if it’s just getting up, stretching a little and tensing all your muscles as hard as you can for 5-10 seconds.

13. Spend time with someone smarter than you

Habits are socially contagious. It is a well known fact in science that obesity for example spreads through social networks (link to research). The habits and thinking patterns of those you spend time with rub off on you. Expose yourself to people who are smarter than you in order to benefit from them.

14. Talk to people who disagree with you

Get into (friendly) discussions with people who disagree with you on any topic. Arguing with them allows you to either:

  • Sharpen your arguments
  • Be convinced that you are wrong

In both cases you win. In the first you convince the other person by out reasoning them, and I the second false logic you previously had is not eliminated.

15. Go for a walk in nature

Walking through nature has a number of benefits:

  • There is more oxygen since plants produce it
  • The human mind calms down when surrounded by plants
  • Walking helps your blood circulation

Having a walk in a park at lunch time can greatly help you work smartly for the rest of the day.

16. Carry a notepad

Great minds like Leonardo Da Vinci always carries a notepad. They used it to jot down ideas, sketches and questions they had for later review. Having a little book on you and writing down interesting things can greatly help you train your curiosity and logical thinking.

17. Take 10 minutes at the end of the day to plan tomorrow

By planning tomorrow the day before you begin the day with a plan. This allows you to work much more productively. Many people are busy all day, but not actually productive. A great part of being smart is knowing that hard work is inferior to smart work. Pick your battles in advance.

9 Ultimate Bucket List Road Trips

9 ULTIMATE BUCKET LIST ROAD TRIPS

By Jessica Valentine via Flying the Nest

9. Grand Canyon, Arizona to Moab, Utah

Distance: 1387km (862 miles)

Starting at the iconic Grand Canyon, hit six classic national parks on a ten day epic road trip through the best canyons in the Southwest.

Road_To_Grand_Canyon_by_ArnoFR

8. Route 66, Illinois to California

Distance: 3210km (1995 miles)

The mother of all road trips, Route 66 is probably the most well known drive on this list. This historic road find thousands enjoying this vintage highway every year and is one we are hoping to cross off our list very soon!

1639

7. The Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway

Distance: 8.3km (5.2 miles)

This picturesque road connects the western fjord islands between Molde and Kristiansund. The road zig-zags across numerous islands connected by causeways and bridges. If we ever find ourselves in Norway, you now know where to find us.

Picturesque Norway landscape. Atlanterhavsvegen

6. Great Ocean Road, Australia

Distance: 243km (151 miles)

This iconic Australian road crosses the southeastern coast, built between 1919 and 1932 dedicated to soldiers killed during WW1 (making it the world’s largest war memorial)! The road passes a number of ecosystems ranging from rainforests and beaches to sheer cliffs, including famous natural rock formations.

35534_1600x1200-wallpaper-cb1323358566

5. Karakoram Highway (China to Pakistan)

Distance: 1303km (810 miles)

Also known as the Friendship Highway, this ancient Silk Road runs from the Chinese city of Kashgar to the Pakistan city of Abottabad. Built between 1959 and 1979 by the governments of China and Pakistan, it is the highest paved international road in the world, crossing the Khunjerab Pass at an elevation of 4693m (15,397 feet)! The highway is known for its eco-adventure hotspots, passing ancient petroglyphs, rivers, glaciers and huge mountains.

karakoram-highway-Xingiang-region

4. Ring Road, Iceland

Distance: 1335km (830 miles)

Iceland has crept up into our top 10 countries we need to visit (and Game Of Thrones may of had something to do with this). Ring Road circles the entire island, from its snow-capped mountains to volcanic craters! Just google images of what you will see along the drive and you will see why it has made our list.

img136

3. The Dalton Highway, Alaska

Distance: 666km (414 miles)

Starting at the Elliott Highway, north of Fairbanks and ending at Deadhorse near the Arctic Ocean, this drive is perfect for those that want more of a remote road trip. The paved road ends only about an hour out of Fairbanks, as you travel the rest of the way on packed gravel, passing jagged peaks and mighty rivers! Just remember to watch out for wolves, bears and reindeer!

DSCN1469

2. Milford Road, New Zealand

Distance: 120 km (74.5miles)

Are you  big Lord of the Rings fans? Same! Driving along one of the most scenic routes on the plant, Milford Road is full on cliffs, snow-capped summits, waterfalls, breathtaking valleys. Look out for The Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain, an optical illusion causes the approaching mountain to get smaller rather than bigger!

dsc01060

1. Amalfi Coast Road, Italy

Distance: 60km (37 miles)

From the natural beauty of the mountainous landscape and clear seas, to the bright villages straight out of a story book, this breathtaking road is number 1 on our bucket list! The beauty of the region is insane, we can not wait to see Amalfi with our own eyes.

AMALFI-COAST2

What is Wrong with our Culture – Alan Watts

By Sam Austin via Live Learn Evolve

THIS IS WHY OUR CULTURE MAKES PEOPLE UNHAPPY

Expressions of physical love are far more dangerous than expressions of physical hatred.

Alan Watts, another prescient sage of the ages delivered this profound message decades ago, but unfortunately it resonates more accurately than ever. This thought-provoking five minute video gives a powerful insight into how our social systems may have unconsciously misdirected us. A conception that seems to explain the collective insanity of our relentless economic pursuits, that are depleting natural resources and human freedoms at an exponential rate. Perhaps this is why depression is increasing so rapidly, it will be the 2nd most disabling condition in the world by 2020, behind heart disease.

Watts believes the madness stems from our culture valuing hate more than love.  “Expressions of physical love are far more dangerous than expressions of physical hatred,” Watts says.  “And it seems to me that a culture that has that sort of assumption is basically crazy.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

The Bookshop

Italo Calvino‘s 1979 book, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, is a novel that sees you, the reader, attempting to buy and read Italo Calvino’s novel, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. In one particular passage of the story’s first chapter, the following types of books are listed as you navigate a bookshop, eager to locate Calvino’s.

(Source: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, via Michael Vinson; Image viaMorBCN at Flickr.)

  • Books You Haven’t Read;
  • Books You Needn’t Read;
  • Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading;
  • Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written;
  • Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered;
  • Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First;
  • Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered;
  • Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback;
  • Books You Can Borrow From Somebody;
  • Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too;
  • Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages;
  • Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success;
  • Books Dealing With Something You’re Working on at the Moment;
  • Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case;
  • Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer;
  • Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves;
  • Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified;
  • Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Re-read;
  • Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them;
  • New Books Whose Author Or Subject Appeals To You;
  • New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for you or in general);
  • New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to you)

22-year-old Hunter S. Thompson tells you the meaning of life

Hunter-S-Thompson_Main-700x400

In April of 1958, Hunter S. Thompson was 22 years old when he wrote this letter to his friend Hume Logan in response to a request for life advice.

Thompson’s letter, found in Letters of Note, offers some of the most thoughtful and profound advice I’ve ever come across.

April 22, 1958
57 Perry Street
New York City

Dear Hume,

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal— to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect— between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer— and, in a sense, the tragedy of life— is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.

I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre. These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors— but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires— including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life— the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN— and here is the essence of all I’ve said— you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.

Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know— is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo— this merely happens to be mine.

If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that— no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.

And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,

your friend,
Hunter

If we no longer force people to work to meet their basic needs, won’t they stop working?

bungles_salway_1248

By Scott Santens

What underlies a question like this is that it’s okay to force people to work by withholding what they need to live, in order to force them to work for us. And at the same time, because they are forced, we don’t even pay them enough to meet their basic needs that we are withholding to force them to work.

What is a good word to describe this?

Now, what if we no longer withheld access to basic resources to meet fundamental shared basic needs? What if work in the labor market was then fully voluntary?

What if we could no longer force people to work for low wages? Maybe wages would go up? Maybe productivity would go up? Maybe automation of human labor would be accelerated?

We could find the answers to these questions. We already know from experiments what they are likely to be. Until basic income is policy though, we won’t know for sure, and we will continue forcing each other to work by withholding food and shelter from each other.

So what’s one belief that seems to be a major stumbling block in keeping people from more readily accepting the idea of paying everyone a basic income, in addition to the importance of it?

We all have three choices:

  1. Work for others
  2. Work for ourselves
  3. Do zero work

If you believe option 2 exists, you might believe there’s no need for basic income and that it’ll only enable option 3.

I don’t believe option 2 actually exists yet, but that it needs to, and can with basic income.

Why don’t I believe option 2 exists?

Can everyone actually just work for themselves? Doesn’t this require some form of starting capital? What if none exists? What if the education doesn’t exist? What if there are barriers to entry? What if competition at the top actively prevents this? What’s the percentage of the population that actually has option 2 in practice and not just in theory?

Regarding option 3, is this truly an option as well? Let’s take being homeless for example. Let’s say someone chooses to be homeless because they don’t want to do any work. They sleep under bridges and eat out of dumpsters in order to avoid any work. Is there really no work involved here? This seems like it can involve a lot of work. Finding food in dumpsters can take hours of work, and finding places to sleep can take hours of work, and also involve moving frequently from place to place. It seems to me that homelessness can be exhausting.

Then there are the laws. Here in my town, we like to tear down homeless camps. This happens in lots of other places too. Being homeless is not allowed. There also exist laws against dumpster diving and companies even will do stuff to tossed food to actively prevent people from being able to eat it. We put up homeless spikes, and toss homeless people in jails. I think the best example though is this one, where a guy was not even allowed to exist on his own in the middle of nowhere. He was shot and killed.

So no, I just don’t think we really allow any options except for option 1.

We are a one option society. Work for others, or else.

That is our system as constructed. Those who can work for themselves must first work enough for others, and those who wish to do no work must first work for others, or be born to parents that make it and option 2 possible without any working for others.

How can we make it possible for option 2 to actually exist?

My favorite story is Garrison Frazier. It’s a story I first learned about from Karl Widerquist, and included in this article. He was a freed slave and chosen as the spokesperson for other freed slaves. He was asked about slavery and how he could be truly free from ever being enslaved again.

Slavery is, receiving by irresistible power the work of another man, and not by his consent. The freedom, as I understand it, promised by the proclamation, is taking us from under the yoke of bondage, and placing us where we could reap the fruit of our own labor, take care of ourselves and assist the Government in maintaining our freedom… The way we can best take care of ourselves is to have land, and turn it and till it by our own labor…”

This is to say that without owning a minimum amount of land, it is not possible to truly live by your own labor. One must have this ability in order to not be forced to work for others. If you can’t grow your own food or build your own house, you can’t live by your own hands. This option must exist. But does it make any sense in this day and age to give everyone land? How would we even accomplish this? How would it be universal and equal in quantity and quality? What if some land didn’t grow food? How would this work in cities where our markets have created the dense populations of labor required for them to exist?

Basic income is how we can accomplish what universal land would accomplish, in a far more efficient, flexible, and equitable way. By giving everyone enough cash to purchase food and shelter, we meet the requirements needed for option 2 to exist.

And yes, we also then meet the requirements for option 3 to exist. But really how different is it from option 2 anyway? If everyone got enough land to be free, and they refused to work for others, they would have to either work it or die. In the same way, if someone gets a basic income and refuses to use it to buy food and shelter, they will die. But seriously, how many people refuse to eat and don’t want shelter? Are we not deluding ourselves when we think that the only reason people eat right now, is because we are limiting their choices with food stamps, or that drug addicts somehow don’t eat? Everyone needs to eat. It’s a basic need.

Meanwhile, this concern that people with their basic needs met don’t have other needs, is incorrect. We know we all have many more needs than our most basic ones.

needs
(Source: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Wikimedia Commons)

We aren’t going to stop working to meet all our needs, just because we make it easier to meet some of them. Why do we pretend otherwise?

I personally believe our collective belief so many of us feel, that we all really want to do nothing whatsoever, is due to our systematic devastation of intrinsic motivation from birth.

intrinsic motivation destruction
(Source: The New Economics)

We pummel intrinsic motivation into the god damn ground, so that many of us feel it’s the only kind to exist. We look forward to vacations so that we can do nothing. We come home from work excited to do nothing. So when we think of actually enabling everyone to do nothing, we imagine a world of everyone doing absolutely nothing. We think this, because in our everyday experience, intrinsic motivation feels rare. It feels rare because we don’t see it. We don’t see it because we ignore it, and because we do everything we can to reduce it.

Here’s an example of destroyed intrinsic motivation. Imagine you are a kid again. You enter a science fair because you love science. Lots of kids get ribbons for theirs and you don’t. Crushed, you decide you aren’t good at science after all. The core problem here is we gave anyone ribbons.

Another example. Again, you are a kid. You love learning. You’re an amazing visual learner. Your class involves little visual learning and you get Ds on your report card. Now you hate school and think you’re dumb, even though you’d get As if there was more visual learning in both teaching and testing. The problem here is we graded anyone at all.

Not only are we good at destroying intrinsic motivation, we’re also great at ignoring it. Imagine your mother cooks you your favorite meal because she loves you, and after, to thank her, you put a $50 bill on the table. No one would ever actually do that, right? Why? Because her motivation for the meal was not extrinsic in motivation. Paying her might even lead to her never wanting to cook for you again.

This seems to be our major problem. We have oriented ourselves so extrinsically, that we think no one would do anything for any other reason whatsoever, without cash as part of the equation. And yet at the same time, we know this flat out isn’t true.

We also know that our use of extrinsic rewards can actually be harmful, and as we automate the labor extrinsic rewards don’t hurt, we’re going to increase negative impacts on what work remains.

As for the science we have to confirm how little work is actually reduced when people are guaranteed basic incomes, we need only look to our own Income Maintenance Experiments in the 70s, Canada’s Mincome Experiment, basic income experiments inNamibia and India, and GiveDirectly’s unconditional cash experiments in Uganda and Kenya. This is not all the evidence we have. There’s more. There are cash transfer programs in place all over the world.

From all of this we know that when people are given money to live, on one extreme end some like students and mothers work a bit less, and on the other extreme end, people work even more because they are enabled to do so.

The problem is that despite all of this data, we still have our various mental stumbling blocks. We think people have no intrinsic motivation. We think people can’t be motivated externally to work by something as simple as just paying them more. And we think option 2 exists, because it should and we want to believe it does because otherwise we’re left with supporting a system with only one option.

And we really don’t want to believe that’s true, because that says something about us, we as a society really don’t want to face.

18 Podcast You should check out

1. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – Listen to the unconventional Dan Carlin take his outside-the-box way of thinking and apply it to the past.

2. Welcome to the Night Vale – Get twice-monthly updates on the creepy, mysterious town of Night Vale.

3. The American Life – True stories about everyday people.

4. Radio Lab – A show about curiosity where the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.

5. The Joe Rogan Experience – Listen to the loud and vulgar comedian have long discussions with very interesting and accomplished people.

6. Stuff You Should Know – Learn how science explains the world around us.

7. The Nerdist – A podcast for those with nerdy passions.

8. The Tim Ferriss Show – Author and life hacker Tim Ferriss talks with innovators and life experts.

9. NPR Fresh Air – A show featuring intimate conversations with today’s luminaries.

10. NPR How to do Everything – Learn how to find a date or how to find water in a desert.

11. TED Radio Hour – A journey through fascinating ideas, astonishing inventions, and new ways to think and create.

12. Edumucation – The podcast of director Kevin Smith.

13. NPR Planet Money – A podcast about all things business and finance.

14. The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe – A weekly science podcast discussing science news, especially controversial and fringe claims from a skeptical point of view.

15. Star Talk Radio – A popular show about all things space hosted by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

16. America’s Test Kitchen – A food podcast meant to illuminate the truth about real home cooking.

17. Rooster Teeth – The Rooster Teeth crew discusses gaming, films and projects that they are currently working on.

18. Freakonomics Radio- Freakonomics Radio is a podcast started by the writers of the Freakonomics series, Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt, they examine the hidden side of everything.  They tackle current problems from a different point of view.

Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Quieting the Mind

I’ve been wanting to start Meditating for the past few weeks.  I keep putting it off.  I’m not exactly sure where to start.  Today I came across the article below on zenhabits.net originally from Todd Goldfarb at the We The Change blog.

Meditation is the art of focusing 100% of your attention in one area. The practice comes with a myriad of well-publicized health benefits including increased concentration, decreased anxiety, and a general feeling of happiness.

Although a great number of people try meditation at some point in their lives, a small percentage actually stick with it for the long-term. This is unfortunate, and a possible reason is that many beginners do not begin with a mindset needed to make the practice sustainable.

The purpose of this article is to provide 20 practical recommendations to help beginners get past the initial hurdles and integrate meditation over the long term:

1) Make it a formal practice. You will only get to the next level in meditation by setting aside specific time (preferably two times a day) to be still.

2) Start with the breath. Breathing deep slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind and is an ideal way to begin practice.

3) Stretch first. Stretching loosens the muscles and tendons allowing you to sit (or lie) more comfortably. Additionally, stretching starts the process of “going inward” and brings added attention to the body.

4) Meditate with Purpose. Beginners must understand that meditation is an ACTIVE process. The art of focusing your attention to a single point is hard work, and you have to be purposefully engaged!

5) Notice frustration creep up on you. This is very common for beginners as we think “hey, what am I doing here” or “why can’t I just quiet my damn mind already”. When this happens, really focus in on your breath and let the frustrated feelings go.

6) Experiment. Although many of us think of effective meditation as a Yogi sitting cross-legged beneath a Bonzi tree, beginners should be more experimental and try different types of meditation. Try sitting, lying, eyes open, eyes closed, etc.

7) Feel your body parts. A great practice for beginning meditators is to take notice of the body when a meditative state starts to take hold. Once the mind quiets, put all your attention to the feet and then slowly move your way up the body (include your internal organs). This is very healthy and an indicator that you are on the right path.

8) Pick a specific room in your home to meditate. Make sure it is not the same room where you do work, exercise, or sleep. Place candles and other spiritual paraphernalia in the room to help you feel at ease.

9) Read a book (or two) on meditation. Preferably an instructional guide AND one that describes the benefits of deep meditative states. This will get you motivated. John Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are is terrific for beginners.

10) Commit for the long haul. Meditation is a life-long practice, and you will benefit most by NOT examining the results of your daily practice. Just do the best you can every day, and then let it go!

11) Listen to instructional tapes and CDs.

12) Generate moments of awareness during the day. Finding your breath and “being present” while not in formal practice is a wonderful way to evolve your meditation habits.

13) Make sure you will not be disturbed. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not insuring peaceful practice conditions. If you have it in the back of your mind that the phone might ring, your kids might wake, or your coffee pot might whistle than you will not be able to attain a state of deep relaxation.

14) Notice small adjustments. For beginning meditators, the slightest physical movements can transform a meditative practice from one of frustration to one of renewal. These adjustments may be barely noticeable to an observer, but they can mean everything for your practice.

15) Use a candle. Meditating with eyes closed can be challenging for a beginner. Lighting a candle and using it as your point of focus allows you to strengthen your attention with a visual cue. This can be very powerful.

16) Do NOT Stress. This may be the most important tip for beginners, and the hardest to implement. No matter what happens during your meditation practice, do not stress about it. This includes being nervous before meditating and angry afterwards. Meditation is what it is, and just do the best you can at the time.

17) Do it together. Meditating with a partner or loved one can have many wonderful benefits, and can improve your practice. However, it is necessary to make sure that you set agreed-upon ground rules before you begin!

18) Meditate early in the morning. Without a doubt, early morning is an ideal
time to practice: it is quieter, your mind is not filled with the usual clutter, and there is less chance you will be disturbed. Make it a habit to get up half an hour earlier to meditate.

19) Be Grateful at the end. Once your practice is through, spend 2-3 minutes feeling appreciative of the opportunity to practice and your mind’s ability to focus.

20) Notice when your interest in meditation begins to wane. Meditation is
hard work, and you will inevitably come to a point where it seemingly does not fit into the picture anymore. THIS is when you need your practice the most and I recommend you go back to the book(s) or the CD’s you listened to and become re-invigorated with the practice. Chances are that losing the ability to focus on meditation is parallel with your inability to focus in other areas of your life!

Meditation is an absolutely wonderful practice, but can be very difficult in the beginning. Use the tips described in this article to get your practice to the next level!