Next week I am turning twenty years old. Is it just me or why is there this subjective notion that if someone is 19 he is still considered a child, if someone is 20 he is considered an actual adult?
Anyways, I wanted to write this post, to express my state of mind. Usually I don’t share my thoughts publicly, but I guess this is a good opportunity to do so. Have fun 🙂
To me, getting older is a process of becoming more aware of what is important and what is not. As I look at life through an “optimization lens” I am constantly trying to “improve” my life. Always trying to become more efficient, looking for better opportunities, removing distractions, becoming happier and so on.
In the last couple of years, the concept of essentialism has stuck with me.
“Hard Work” is glorified in our society: Everyone tells you to work as hard as you can, 14h workdays are not enough, work the entire day.
I blindly agreed. I felt extremely “accomplished”, working the entire day. My brain loved it.
But this is stupid. It’s a waste of time actually. I have always looked at my inputs, never at my outputs.
The last couple of months had been a radical shift from being “effective” to being “efficient”. I don’t value inputs anymore.
First I look at what I am trying to achieve and ask myself: is this essential? Then I look at the desired output and reverse engineer all of the essential steps to achieve my desired outputs.
It’s quite fascinating how much of my work has been either completely useless or just not essential so far.
This has been such a good decision. Realize that your brain is wired, to feel “accomplished” if you worked the entire day. The more you work, the more you get the subjective feeling that you are actually accomplishing things.
But I don’t need to pretend that I am accomplishing something. I don’t need to feel good about myself.
I encourage you to do the same thing: Stop looking at your inputs. Look at the desired output, ask yourself if that output is important, then reverse engineer and radically remove unessential steps.
This concept of essentialism has become my peace.
One more thing that has increased my happiness tenfold was to remove most distractions in my life. It’s absurd how distracted we are.
Our phone, the internet, notifications, everything stimulates our brain and makes us unconscious and unaware.
I felt that I was slowly losing control. Someone else has taken control of how I live my life. And I had to stop that.
I decided to be on airplane mode most of the time. I turned off my devices more often. But this wasn’t enough.
I am not using my iPhone anymore. I bought a Nokia 105, to still be available for emergencies, but I am currently not planning to use my iPhone again.
The default state of my laptop is off. If I turn it on, the default is that the Wifi is turned off. Only if I need Wifi for work I turn it on, and currently I am working only in tightly scheduled (planned) sessions.
If I could I would also disconnect completely from the internet, but this currently I can’t afford.
This change has been radical. It has some negative implications, but I am okay with that, since it has just made me so much calmer and happier — therefore the pros outweigh the cons.
I can recommend this to anyone who feels that they have lost touch to reality and have lost control of their life. Disconnect. Enjoy nature, enjoy life.
If I look back at my actions 10, 20 years from now, I will probably laugh and make jokes about the completely “unessential things” I was still working on during my twenties, but that’s ok. Just give your best effort, seek out the best opportunities at the moment.
(Please don’t get me wrong, working hard can be super important, but only if what you are working on is indeed essential. If an awesome opportunity shows up, seize it. That’s the whole premise of essentialism: Remove the unimportant to solely focus on the important. But working for the sake of working is completely ignorant in my opinion.)
A Life without Work
If essentialism blew your mind, just wait until AI emerges and you realize that most of what humans do is “unessential”.
“A life without work” is a concept of mine, that in the next 20 years, AI and Robotics will replace all human labor and maybe also human intelligence.
As the productivity of our society gets more automated through AI and Robotics, we can now harvest, produce, overall create more. The companies that first enable AI and Robotics become ultra-wealthy. The wealth gap gets bigger. The overall economy grows exponentially and soon a UBI (Universal basic income) gets introduced by the government.
In an attempt to reduce the wealth gap (and also because the economy is doing so well, therefore there are more tax dollars), the government decides to give everyone 1.000$ per month. Five years later, that amount increases to 2.000$ per month, and soon humans will no longer have to work.
Productivity has gotten so automated, that human labor is no longer required. We enter a life where you don’t need to work anymore — A life without work.
How will you spend your time now?
Will this scenario be a utopian one, where people will focus on craftsmanship, creativity and empathy? Will people finally love each other and will we have human peace because of our frugality?
Will this scenario be a dystopian one? Will people completely escape from reality with the rise of VR? Will humans lose interest in life and just do nothing all day?
No matter if “A Life without Work” will happen or not, I believe it is crucial to think about the implications it can have.
Why? It’s unfortunate but RIGHT NOW I see so many people, especially adults, just don’t know what they should do with their life. They escape life, through compulsive behavior such as drugs.
They don’t know what do to in a life without work. Apparently, there is no meaning in life…
So just ask yourself how your life without work would look like? What would you do? What would your values be? What would be important to you?
Just like “working hard”, “being successful” is another concept that has been indoctrinated in me. Up until recently I always wanted to be “successful”. I always wanted to feel accomplished for my work.
Recently I am questioning all of my motivations. I always ask myself why exactly I am doing something. It’s unfortunate because so many people live life blindly and never ask themselves what their motivations are.
Maybe it’s just my way of figuring out the meaning of my life, but lately I have become less and less interested in being “successful”.
We fortunately are extremely wealthy right now, we don’t have to worry about shelter or food. So being “successful” is just for our ego. It’s something that satisfies our ego.
Yes, this feeling of accomplishment is pretty darn good, I know. But I am a little bit worried, that success becomes a dead end. If you don’t know why you are doing something in the first place, you can waste your entire life chasing something you don’t want or need and ultimately become depressed.
So ask yourself: Why are you doing something? What is important to you?
My Motivations right now:
First I want to make myself happy. If I am not happy, it gets harder for me to give back, since I am not an altruist. Reading, writing, creatively expressing myself is pure bliss for me.
Here is a list of everything that gives me bliss right now (in no specific order):
- Early mornings (Sunrises, Coffee, Reading, Writing, Journaling, Working Out, Jumping into the ocean)
- Amazing meals with people I love
- Meaningful work
- Learning and trying new things. Traveling. Being creative. Ticking of goals on my “LONG TERM GOALS” list
- Family, friends and all meaningful relationships
- Being calm, privacy and intimacy, not being distracted, being close to nature
When I am happy I can make other people happy.
Second I try to be a helping hand for the people that are most important to me. I know that I can’t be the change of other people, but I can send out positive energy, maybe this will carry over to others and lead to a positive cycle in their lives as well.
Third I try to give back to the rest of the world, by sharing my philosophies. Maybe the things I am writing aren’t that absurd and other people can use them for their best. Maybe 🙂
(Questioning motivation or meaning can be pretty risky since it can always lead to a nihilistic world view — everyone and everything will be forgotten, when the human race extincts. I am not sure how to deal with this thought experiment just yet.)
“The way we think we get peace is to solve all external problems. But there are infinite external problems. So the only way to get peace is on the inside. By the idea of giving up all the external problems” — Naval Ravikant
Essentialism, A life without work, Success all have been a major part of my life recently. But the most important realization I had before turning twenty is to accept whatever is happening. Only in the last couple of months I have realized how much energy I can save by just letting things unfold naturally.
Some could interpret my current way of living as not caring, not giving a shit about what’s happening. That is certainly not the case. It’s the exact opposite. I am now more careful and attentive to what is happening than ever. Practicing stoicism just made me express myself differently.
I became better at judging situations, filtering out the essential and trying my best to solve problems while not unnecessary losing energy, arguing or complaining about things.
However, I am still in the process. Often my ego still shows up and wants to argue, wants to complain. That is ok. It’s natural. I am giving my best effort to prevent this from happening and try to reflect as much as possible, why sometimes my ego still is so apparent.
Especially with things that I care much about (e.g. my company), it can be very difficult to accept my ego. Often I “want to be right”, because I believe that it will have the best outcome for all of us. It’s an act of ego to improve our company. So maybe it is a good form of ego, still it’s ego though.
Living together with my girlfriend has been the best time of my life. In the last couple of months I had glimpses of being in a blissful, peaceful state (and no, I didn’t take any drugs). I currently love my life and am excited about the future.
Goodbye to my child-life, starting the next chapter soon. Let it be a good one.