PJK's Blog

Philosophy, the Internet, the World, and I

2021 Year in Review

I started this post towards the end of 2021, but didn’t get around to finishing it until April, 2022.

It’s that time of the year again where we look back on the last year of our lives and look forward to the next.  It is useful because it allows us to review what we did right, and what we can improve on in the future. You can see my previous years here:
2010201120122013201420152016201720182019, 2020

2021 was a unique year in many ways.  The US began to open up after a year of lockdown, while Thailand started to lockdown after a year of being open.  This meant that we spent longer in the US than usual, longer than anytime since 2012.  We also had 7 friends from around the world visit us in Colorado for the first time, which was a lot of fine. Here’s a look back in what I did in 2021.

SUMMARY

  • 2020 winded down in Bangkok on the roof of our place in Bangkok with friends.  January started with a 30 day hip stretching challenge, and working on getting a loan in the US.
  • The later half of January we spent in Phuket.  At the end of the month, we celebrated a friends birthday in northeastern Thailand.
  • In February, we went to Pataya with Kemji’s family.  At the end of February, we went wakeboarding with a bunch of friends and got chess cake for my birthday.  I also closed on my first property, a place in Chicago.
  • In March, we went to Koh Samui to view property, though didn’t find anything we liked.  At the end of March, I was part of the filming of a music video with our friend Taime.
  • April began with Kolour Festival in Phuket, which was a nice opening from the covid lockdowns.  Mid April a group of us did a staycation at Four Seasons along the river, and at the end of April went to Mahanakhon Skywalk.  I also purchased a property in Bangkok.
  • In May, we went to US at the end of the month.  We met in Chicago with my cousins, then flew to Colorado and played disc golf, as well as visited rocky mountain national park.
  • In early June we got vaccinated, went to Ft Collins with my uncle, saw Joey Harkum with Erika and Scott, and drove up to Evergreen with Tim.  In mid June we went to Las Vegas and visited my brother in Salt Lake City.  At the end of June, Marc and Taime came to Colorado and Marc and I went to the Kelly campout for a few days.  After returning to Denver, we hiked south table and took them to their first baseball game.  Richard also came to stay with us for a few days.
  • In early July, Chris and Sam came from Bangkok to visit Colorado. On July 9th, we saw Lindsey Stirling at Red Rocks with Chris/Sam/John/Marc/Taime/Jesse.  On July 11th, we (Marc, Taime, Kemji, and I) met my brother Ron in Montrose and climbed Mt. Sneffels.  The following day we did a night in Salida and visited Andrew, and the following day drove to Winter Park and stayed at an epic cabin.  Chris/Sam flew back from LA and stayed there with us – it has a sauna, hot tub, and epic views.  After Winter Park, we flew to Las Vegas again to see Kygo at XS Club.  Once there, we drove Mustangs to “Grand Canyon”, which was actually just an Indian reservation but still impressive nonetheless.   On the way back we visited the Hoover Dam, and at the end of July we flew to Portland, Oregon.
  • In early August we all drove to Seattle from Portland.  We met our friend Luis (who we know from Bangkok) there. After a few days there, Chris and Sam left to the UK.  The rest of us went to a MLS game.  We flew back to Colorado while the rest of the crew flew out of the country.  Once back in Colorado, we celebrated Ryan’s birthday at his cabin,  my brother John and I played disc golf at an epic course on the way up.  Later we took Kemji’s friend Oui up to Rocky Mountain National Park. A few days later we visited a MLS rapids game with Tim and Karla. and went camping in southern Wyoming with Tim.  At the end of August, I went to the golfing range with my uncle Jeff.  A few days later 2 other friends from Bangkok came to Colorado, Chris and Namtarn.  The following day we took them to a Molly Hatchet concert, which was memorable.  The following day we took them to Boulder.
  • In early September, with Chris and his girlfriend, we drove up Mt. Evans, and took them to their first Rockies MLB game. My brother Ron and his wife came out from Salt Lake City and we went to art gallery in Cherry Creek.  We also met another friend from Bangkok, Lenny, in Ft Collins which was a pleasant surprise.  On Sept 8th, we saw Jimmy Buffet at Red Rocks, which was a lot of fun and something I’ve always wanted to see.  In mid September took my mom and uncle to Bootleg Bottom.  Towards the end of September, I closed on rental property in Virginia.  We also went to Steamboat Springs to support Richard in his 100 mile Run Rabbit Run race.  Afterwards, we drove with him and his girlfriend to Geneses to stay with their friends Jon and Aaron who have a beautiful property there.
  • We later saw Twenty One Pilots in Denver, which was epic.  Our friends from Guatemala, Rodrigo and Natalia, came to visit and we got to spend time with them for a few days.
  • In early October we flew to Chicago. saw the symphony orchestra there.  On October 10th, we arrived into Phuket, Thailand for a 14 day quarantine.  We also viewed property in Phuket and I refinanced the Chicago property to purchase a villa in Phuket.
  • At the end of November, we went to Chiang Rai to visit Vy and Ann, and then took a taxi to Nan to visit Kemji’s family.
  • For Christmas, about 20 friends and us rented a villa in Phuket and had a memorable time celebrating there.  New Years we went to a rooftop bar in Satorn.

Busy year, fun year, and satisfying, though didn’t have a lot of downtime.  It was certainly a year to remember.

WHAT WENT WELL THIS YEAR?

2021 was a year full of a lot of uncertainty, but also a lot of adventure.  When we left Bangkok in May, somewhat last minute, we left as lockdowns were becoming more strict.  On the flip side, the US was opening up.  We left in May with the plan to spend a month or two abroad, but ended up extending multiple times and spent several months in the US.  We had 7 friends from all over the world visit us in Colorado and had a blast sharing the adventure together.  It was the first time that many of our closest friends in Thailand had the chance to visit Colorado.  I also had the chance to spend more time with family, the most amount of time back in the US in a year since I left to Thailand in 2012.  It was enjoyable, but also a long time to be on the road.

Overall, the US trip was full of parties, concerts, camping, hiking, and eating.  I was surprised by the costs of Colorado shooting up with inflation and with the influx of people moving there – AirBnb and car rental prices had increased substantially.  Finding an Airbnb for more than 10 days was nearly impossible as people often book just weekends.

We arrived in the US in May, and only planned to stay for a couple months.  However, due to the conditions in Thailand not improving, we kept extending our trip.  In total, we spent nearly 6 months in the US, departing in October to Phuket, Thailand.  It was a fun summer and the longest time we had spent in the US since I had lived there.

Health: The first quarter of the year I ended up in perhaps the best shape of my life in terms of strength and endurance.  At the end of 2020 I’d been training for a trail race that ended up being cancelled, and I had kept doing the Stronglifts 5×5 program, which has been effective in building strength.  After departing to the US and being on the road, the lack of routine made it hard to keep the gains but nonetheless stayed active.  Upon returning to Thailand, I started again.  Overall, I’m happy with my health progress for 2021 and plan to improve in 2022.

Knowledge: 2021 I certainly learned a lot – ended up purchasing 4 houses by leveraging low interest rates and it was quite a learning experience.  I didn’t get to read as many books as I’d planned, but felt satisfied with my improvements in this realm.

Relationships: Between getting to spend months with my family and friends in Denver, and being able to have some of my best friends from around the world visit Colorado in 2021, the experiences I had with the people around me were enjoyable and fun.  I had the chance to go camping a few times and go on some fun adventures.

Business: 2021 was another year of progress in the business side of things.  Along with real estate, which was a big focus on 2021, I made progress launching a new brand for a hangover cure, as well as improving and growing my existing businesses.

Overall, most of the stuff I was working towards in 2020 I improved on in 2021.  I continued to stretch consistently, worked out at least 3x/week, sauna 3x/week, and had a lot of fun.

WHAT DIDN’T GO SO WELL THIS YEAR?

It’s hard to complain after 2021, but I could have definitely done a better job with routine, both in terms of staying active on the road and consistently lifting/running, as well as writing and reading.  I see writing and reading as fundamental pieces of life in terms of learning and communicating, and I can certainly do a better job at that.  Aside from that, I definitely partied a fair amount and could do a better job at minimizing the late nights and work on waking up earlier in the day.

WHAT AM I WORKING TOWARD?

One of my goals for 2021 was to get a house in Colorado for us and my family/friends.  However, due to low interest rates and Denver’s market exploding, none of my offers went through and was unable to purchase a property.  Nonetheless, going to wait to see the effect of rising interest rates and reevaluate in a few months.

Aside from that, health wise, will continue to do the hip and back stretching 2-3x/week, lift 3x/week, and implement at least 2 days of running a week.  I want to get to 100kg bench for 5×5, maintain 110kg squat 5×5, and continue to work on flexibility.

Business wise, I’m launching 2 new brands this year and excited to see how they turn out.

Lastly, our house in southern Thailand should be finished by October and excited to spend more time there and work on furnishing and improving the first real home I’ve ever opened, which is exciting.

ALL TOGETHER

Overall, I’m satisfied with the progress and experiences I had in 2021.  Looking forward to what is in store in 2022.  I’m about 4 months late in publishing this post as I had it half written but failed to finish it until now.

I’m excited to get back into a regular writing schedule as I’ve written a fair bit but haven’t published much in the last year or 2.  I have a lot of ideas in my mind that I want to write down to clarify my thinking and I enjoy the research/writing process, though it takes a fair amount of work.

Currently, we’re in Denver, Colorado and just finished a trip to New York City and Miami/Bahamas for the Flogging Molly Cruise, which was epic.  We plan to be in Colorado another month or so before departing back towards Asia, potentially stopping over in Europe.

In 2021, I only published one post:

Here a few interesting links from 2021:

Quote to ponder:

Money buys happiness in the same way drugs bring pleasure: Incredible if done right, dangerous if used to mask a weakness, and disastrous when no amount is enough. (?)

A book worth checking out: The Psychology of Money

You can follow me on Twitter here.

Thanks for reading and all the best in 2022 and beyond.

Boredom and Doing Things

When you’re growing up as a child, if you weren’t forced into school, most kids wouldn’t go.  If most kids weren’t pressured to study English, math, read, or wake up and bus to school, they wouldn’t go.  However, in hindsight, as a child grows up, he/she can reflect back on childhood and see that learning English, math, how to read, etc. was greatly beneficial to his/her life.

People often say “I don’t want to do it because it’s boring” or “I don’t want to eat vegatables because they don’t taste good”.  I’ll argue that these statements are terrible misunderstandings about life, and maximizing life involves doing things that are sometimes boring or doing things that you sometimes don’t want to.

Going for a run without your headphones may be boring, though it is vital to how our bodies work.  In our not so distant history, we were forced to hunt, build shelter, and be cautious of potential predators.  However, today, much of what our ancestors were required to do can be bought – we can buy abundant food, can buy shelter, and have no predators.  But ours bodies need to be active, moving around.  To compensate for this, doing daily physical activity is vital – both in terms of cardio and resistance training – lifting weights, doing pullups/pushups, etc.

A lot of people say “I don’t like carrots”, or “I don’t like eating vegetables” or “I don’t like going to the gym, it’s boring”.  Does this mean you shouldn’t ever eat them? No.  Just as exercise in modern day is necessary for us to be healthy, eating  vegetables is necessary to be healthy.  While food is abundant today, and tasty, it is killing us.  Eating vegetables that may not taste as good as a bag of candy, a processed hamburger and bun, it is vital to our health, and therefore should be eaten regularly.  It is a bit tough to see, but consuming things that you may not feel like is important, and encouraged.

People today have a hard time simply sitting and doing nothing.  Feeling bored.  In a modern world full of constant stimulation of our devices, TV’s, radios, and music, simply not listening or watching or staring at anything is vital.  Just as running when you don’t want to, eating vegetables that you may not like the taste of, and studying English as a child even though you didn’t want to is important to the quality of a healthy life, sitting in modern day and feeling bored even if you don’t want to is vital to the human mind.  The mind needs time to reflect, process, and be aware of simply the present moment.  Most people today have a hard time sitting for 10 minutes doing nothing.  Try it, do a 10-20 minute meditation session and see how it feels.  Boring, right?

The overarching point is that in order to live a good life – one that is healthy, clear minded, energetic, motivated, and aware – we need to often be doing things that we may not want to do.  The world we live in is far from what we evolved in, so we need to compensate accordingly.  The rise of gyms, meditation apps, and diet plans is a clear indicator of the growing number of people aware that simply living in the modern world without compensating for what we’ve lost is killing us.  It’s killing our bodies, our souls, our minds.  But there is a solution – understand what the human body/mind needs and give it that.

The human body/mind needs vegetables, daily activity, daily boredom, close and caring relationships, and creativity.  Just as people feel better when they’re immersed in a hobby or creating something, society needs more people creating and solving problems.  Your tribe needs you to contribute – contribute to the greater good, something beyond simply satisfying yourself.  Life isn’t about simply doing what you want – it’s about helping people who are less fortunate, creating and solving problems in your circle or beyond, learning and sharing wisdom along the way, and contributing to society.  Instead of thinking what to put on your resume, think how you can use your unique mind and perspective to contribute and make the world a slightly better place than when you arrived on it.

2020 Year in Review

It’s that time of the year again where we look back on the last year of our lives and look forward to the next.  It is useful because it allows us to review what we did right, and what we can improve on in the future. You can see my previous years here:
20102011201220132014201520162017, 2018, 2019.

Here’s a look back in what I did in 2020.

SUMMARY

  • New Years started in Phuket in southern Thailand at a beach club with a few friends.
  • At the end of January, we went to Krabi and Railay in southern Thailand for a week.  A small escape from the pollution in Bangkok.
  • In February, a group of friends and I went to Niseko ski resort in Japan for a week.  Was an awesome experience.  In late February, we celebrated my birthday, with some great friends making me a proper Rubik’s Cube cake.  We also visited Nan and Chiang Rai in February.
  • In March we went to Kolour Music Festival in Bangkok, had a few friends visiting from abroad, and Covid restrictions began.  We also attended a few house parties from our close friends.  I had a few pints of Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day just before lockdown in Bangkok.
  • April, May and June were largely spent working on various online projects, running up and down the 24 flights of stairs at my building, and lifting water jugs to stay active, despite not being able to go outside much or visit a gym.
  • June found a new appreciation for the small things in life – visiting a cafe, eating at a restaurant, or visiting a gym.  In the middle of June, a group of us visited Koh Samui, and then Koh Tao, a nice break from the city after lockdown.  The amount of deals on AirBnb was hard to overstate.
  • In July, a group of us rented a yacht in southern Thailand and sailed for a few days.  It was perhaps one of the most beautiful trips in Thailand I’ve done, with an incredible group of people.  At the end of July, we took Kemji’s family to Pattaya for a weekend trip.
  • In August, I did a month of no drinking, while we enjoyed a few friends birthday parties, and I also did cryo therapy for the first time, cooling the air temperature to 200-300 degrees F.  We also did a trip to Naithon Beach in Phuket with friends.
  • September was largely spent going to saunas, working, working out, and hanging out with friends.
  • In October, we went to Chiang Mai with a group, followed by a visit to some friends to Chiang Rai.  It’s always beautiful visiting there.  At the end of October, we had a big group and celebrated Kemji’s birthday.
  • In November we went to Karma Fest in Bang Krachao with a group of friends, and it was an awesome experience along the water.  I also played a decent amount of basketball, and bought a VR headset for the first time (recommended, incredible technology).  We also did a boat trip with my girlfriends mom near Asiatique.
  • In December we moved to a new apartment, and spent 5 days in Phuket for Christmas with a good group of friends.  We celebrated New Years on our roof with friends.

WHAT WENT WELL THIS YEAR?

Health: Even with lockdown from the pandemic, I stayed quite active doing stair runs, lifting big jugs of water, pullups, running, and when things were open, going to the gym.  I also tended to eat quite well, though I did indulge in a fair number of parties which involved drinking, a net negative on health.  A work in progress.  Overall I’m quite happy with my health this year.

Knowledge: I didn’t read as many books as usual, but did read a fair amount of articles, magazines, and had a fair number of conversations.  I learned a lot this year, in large credit to the conversations I’ve had with the people around me.  I do plan to dedicate more time each day to actively reading though.

Relationships: With lockdown and less traveling, it meant creating stronger bonds with the people we could hangout with.  I’m happy with the progress made this year with the friends around us, though was unable to visit my family this year, so will hopefully improve on that aspect in 2021.  Not traveling meant more time at home, in Bangkok, which definitely created stronger relationships here.

Business: 2020 was perhaps the most interesting year in business for me ever, and I’m happy with the progress made.  I expect 2021 will be even better as I plan to launch a lot more projects.

I also had the goal by the end of the year to buy a property and restructure my business, both ended being in the works by the end of the year.  I’m happy with the progress on this front.

WHAT DIDN’T GO SO WELL THIS YEAR?

While I’m happy with the progress made in 2020 for my health, I could definitely cut back on the late nights and the drinking.  I did moderate, but working to improve further and further.

I also meditated a fair bit in 2020, but wasn’t as consistent in my practice as I’d like to be.  Like with anything, I need to work further on consistency.

I’ve slacked a lot in my writing schedule for 2020, perhaps the worst ever.   I plan to get back on track in 2021.

WHAT AM I WORKING TOWARD?

I’m currently enrolled in a 21 day hip opening course to improve my mobility, and I’m enjoying it.  I plan to make flexibility a much bigger priority in 2021.  I’ve also lined up a few 30 day challenges, and hopefully will complete 6-12 30 day challenges in the coming year.  Starting in January, I will be doing 50 pullups each day for 30 days.

I also plan to run more in 2021 to keep my heart going strong – I’ve done a lot of resistance training this year, but only ran in the last couple months while training for an obstable course.  I want to integrate running more into my weekly schedule.

I’m in the process of simplifying life – that is to say cleaning up my to-do lists/email, setting better priorities, and alloting more time each day to reading/thinking.  It’s easy to have the days pass with no real progress, and I want to get a lot of the admin work out of the way so I can make the most of the time each week.

Business wise, I have a lot lined up in the pipeline.  I tend to think that success in business (or in life in general) comes from stepping up to bat and giving yourself as many chances as possible to succeed.  While 2020 was successful to me, I think I can do a lot better in improving my output in 2021, and I’m in the process of doing that now.

ALL TOGETHER

Like for everybody, 2020 was an incredibly unique year.  It was perhaps the first year in 8-10 years where I wasn’t on the road every few weeks, or wasn’t traveling abroad for an extended time.  This meant exploring more of the places in my own community in Bangkok, connecting with friends at a deeper level, and traveling within Thailand more.  We also took advantage of all the cheap Airbnb prices all over Thailand, something I’m incredibly grateful to be able to do.

Contrary to many, 2020 was perhaps one of the best years of my life.  It is not something I’d like to say, I wish everyone was enjoying their lives, living their dreams, and pursuring their desires.  I’ve lucked out in the fact that the internet has blossemed even further in 2020, and was well positioned to provide tools, products, and services for people around the world.  We’re at a time in history where we all need to adapt to the new ways of life, grow and learn each day, and connect with one another to make everyone better off.

I believe that we evolved to create, to produce, to provide value to one another.  The more that each of us tries to provide value to society, the better off we are and the better off society is.  Everyone should contribute to whatever extent and whatever means they desire.  If this means bulding a business that helps others, or if it means spending time educating children, I think the only way to truly reap the value you create in the world is to do it yourself, with your ideas.  Then bring together others who share that vision and grow.  Everyone should contribute.

I think 2020 is the year where we all stop blaming each other, the government, or big corporations for our failings.  While these all need to be improved, we all need to take responsibility for our lives, our actions, our discipline, and contribute.  Make 2021 the best year ever of growth, of new experiences, and of contributions to society as a whole.

Here are a few posts I wrote this year, if you haven’t read them yet:

Here are a couple things worth checking out:

And as a repost from last year, here are….

Habits that have a high rate of return in life:

– sleeping 8+ hours each day
– lifting weights 3x week
– going for a walk each day
– saving at least 10 percent of your income
– reading every day
– drinking more water and less of everything else
– leaving your phone in another room while you work

You can see all of my posts from 2020 herehttp://www.patjk.com/posts/2020

I wish you all a happy new year, let’s make 2021 the best year of our lives.

Thanks for reading.

Note: You can follow what I’m reading and things I find interesting daily on my Twitter and/or Facebook page.

The Individual

As I’ve got older, I’ve come to realize a number of things.  One of them is individuality.  Of course, we’re each individuals, with our own minds and bodies, seemingly freely making our own choices given our set of circumstances, motivations, knowledge, ambition, and expectations of what life is.

But within that, there are countless things which can only be done as an individual.  You can’t buy a perfect body, you can’t buy being strong, you can’t buy knowledge, you can’t buy ambition.  These are things that only come from within, from action from within.  You look around the world and see athletes all playing a similar game, attempting to improve their bodies to make them stronger, faster, with more endurance.  Each individual is putting in their own effort, given their ambitions and expectations of life.

And the same is true with the mind.  Professors all over the world are researching their own field of expertise, given what they think is possible to discover.  You can’t buy the knowledge that comes from learning, you can only acquire knowledge through your own pursuit, whether that be reading books, traveling, or talking to people.

So much of life comes down to the individual making their own decisions.  As I’ve grown older (and hopefully wiser), I’ve discovered that so much of what we do in life comes down to our expectations of it.  The change that happens as you get older comes from experience, knowledge, wisdom, or whatever else you may call it, but the underlying change that I think happens most clearly is your expectations change.

When you’re 20 and you think you know everything, pulling all-nighters at a club seems like the best decision.  When you’re 30, the thing stopping you from doing that isn’t that it is no longer fun, it is that the decision to do such doesn’t coincide with your expectations of life.  Why sacrifice a good night of sleep? Why sacrifice wasting the next day?

I can definitely say my expectations of virtually everything in life has changed over the last 10 years.  I’m far more aware of how things work, or at least work within the framework I have of life. Because of it, I see countless more possibilities, and an infinite ceiling above us.  What does being at the top mean mentally? Physically? Emotionally? It isn’t a comparison to do better than others, it is about becoming the best version of yourself.  You only have 1 body, you might as well take care of it.  You only have 1 brain, you might as well make it a good one. You have each day to improve yourself in whatever form that means to you.  Be aware of what your expectations are and why they are what they are.  They will likely change as you change, as you grow, as you learn, as you age.

Expectations influence virtually everything you do.  Perhaps my favorite quote is “if you think you can or you can’t, you’re right”.  Your expectations influence your behavior, and your behavior influences your life.  After all, your behavior is your life.  Your life is what you pay attention to.

We don’t know when the lights will shut off.  Hence why it’s important to make the most of each day.  While cliche, it’s true.  When you look back over the year, do you feel fulfilled of what you’ve done? Are you satisfied with the effort you put in? What changes can you make to do better?

Our experiencing self may forget the aim or the path we’re on. But our remembering self will look back and decide if it was worth it, and adjust our new experiencing self accordingly.

Make today a special day.

Having Time Off

Time off is time where you don’t have any obligation to do anything, no plans, just downtime to relax and focus on whatever your mind wishes.  In modern day, most of our time off is spent watching TV, or playing on our phones, craving the small dopamine releases that these devices give us, which gives us the urge to keep checking our push notifications, Facebook, and Instagram.  The result is that society is never comfortable sitting and doing nothing – being with nothing but our own mind and thoughts.

But this wasn’t true throughout history.  Our lives often revolved around working to survive, but also included vast amounts of time staring into the abyss of the sky, reading constellations, thinking about life, and creating.

Studies show our creative mind is paying the price.  Downtime without mental stimulation is where the brain processes its inputs and creates meaning out of it all.  It is where creative thought flourishes.  Instead of waking up and looking at your phone first thing to get the dopamine, resist the urge and instead write down 10 things you’re grateful for, 10 things you want to accomplish in your life, or 10 things you can do today to make the world better.  Pushing your brain to come up with ideas and thoughts enables you to get better at it, it enables you to become more creative.

Or, immediately when you wakeup, start a timer and practice mindfulness.  Do it for 30 days in a row and you’ll not only notice how distracted your mind is, you’ll become a more calm, relaxed individual.

Spend time in nature.  Test this.  Every time I go days without electronics or stimulation, my mind becomes incredibly creative.  It comes up with ideas, solves problems, creates motivation.  I come back from nature more motivated than ever to work through my ideas and build things.  Friends who’ve done 10 day Vipassana retreats say the same – your mind thinks in ways that are hard to otherwise imagine.

I recently finished reading “Stillness is Key” which is Holiday’s effort to express the vital importance of simply being, not being distracted by continuous stimulation which the modern world provides.  It’s tough to overcome, but possible and we’re better off for it.

It’s about being present, not feeling the urge to do something, but to be fully immersed in the moment of your existence.  It’s easy to look around a cafe and see everyone looking at their phone, locked into the matrix of existence that isn’t here.  It is us living our lives staring at pixels on a screen, which trick us into thinking it is reality.

Stillness is where relaxation happens, where ideas flourish, where you can process your emotions and feelings.  Where you can work through your problems.  Where you can be fully present.

We are incapable of seeing what is essential in the world if we are blind to what’s going on within us.

-Stillness is Key

Often the most obvious things in life are the hardest to see.  Something as simple as seeing your thoughts for what they are, thoughts.  It is perhaps the most obviously thing directly in front of us everyday, but for most of the time, most people don’t see their thoughts for what they are.  They fall victim to them and let them take over their emotions, and their lives.

In his book “Deep Work”, Cal Newport stressed the importance of having blocks of time with no distraction to simply focus on the task at hand.  People for millennia have stressed the importance of mindfulness practice – having periods of daily downtime to simply pay attention.  And for most of human history, we didn’t have the amount of distraction and stimulation as we do today, and we’re all paying a price for it.  Our creativity diminishes, our mind becomes overwhelmed, and our motivation fades.  The only way to cope with this is to practice mindfulness, avoid constant stimulation,  spend more time in nature, in this reality away from technology.

With the current coronavirus issue and people being told to be at home most of the time, there is a lot more downtime for most people. It’s easy to waste this time, but it is a huge opportunity to spend time creating, learning, reading, spending time with your loved ones, or starting a new business.  Use this time to get better.  One quote I’ve heard is “things don’t get better, you do”.  While somewhat true, the world as a whole is getting much better (read Rational Optimistic, Enlightenment Now).  When things recover, you’ll be glad you put in the effort in this downtime, and you can carry the momentum forward.

Take time off your devices, away from the TV, go into nature, and simply be.  You’ll be surprised what your own mind discovers about itself.

If our brains were simple enough for us to understand them, we’d be so simple that we couldn’t.

Choosing to Suffer

As I’ve written about before, all of our experience – all joy, all suffering, all emotion, all sensation, all feeling, fundamentally comes back to our consciousness, what we can perceive to exist.  Because of this, every conscious thing does not want to suffer (as defined as unwanted pain), and wants well being – being content, feeling pleasure, joy, fulfillment – the opposite of suffering.  There are reliably ways to increase suffering, and reliably ways to reduce suffering.

Modern day life is riddled with media which is designed to scare us.  It is important to recognize this so we don’t fall victim to it.  The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one, and the media no doubt contributes to widespread societal suffering, unnecessarily.

Some suffering is necessary, other suffering is unnecessary.  A close relative passing away causes suffering to us because evolution has taught us to build strong bonds to the people in ours lives that matter most.  Suffering over their loss is likely necessary and integrated within us such that we value people when they’re here and suffer when we lose them.  Suffering typically diminishes over time such that we can “move on” and focus on other things in life that are important to our well being and survival.

It’s the season of politics in the US, particularly a seemingly important election in the US.  As I wrote about last month, I look at politics as a big psychology experiment.  It is always interesting to see how people react to various politicians and what they say about different things.  My Facebook newsfeed is filled with people in rage about what the other party said or did, leading to arguments in the threads which are endless.  Both sides are arguing, not from the foundations of the arguments but from a high level, meaning that they can never agree based on the differing foundational values.  As Tim Minchin said, “it’s like hitting beautifully executed shots from the opposite ends of two different tennis courts”.  The first step is to get into the same court.

Politics causes immense amounts of unnecessary suffering.  Hatred, rage, disgust all lead to suffering – and not of suffering of other people, but of you, the one hating, the one raging, the one disgusted.

Politics matters, no doubt about it, but we only can control it so much.  As a result, is it worth suffering over? We can only focus on things within our control (such as voting, for example).  If we let things outside of our control cause suffering, then we’re in for a life of endless suffering.  If we focus on our own responsibilities in our lives, then life becomes a project to grow, to learn, the help others, to build the best life we see possible in our own mind, given our expectations of what life is supposed to be.

Throughout life we have to control how we spend our attention.  In the age of abundant information, one of the best skills that a person can acquire is being able to choose what to consume, and how to react to what is consumed.  If what you consume makes you suffer, you have two options – 1) choose not to consume information that makes you suffer, or 2) consume the information but react to it differently such that you don’t suffer.

Life is short.  It is short for everyone, and no ones wants to die.  As Steve Jobs said “even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there.”  As soon as we recognize truly how short it is, it is our responsibility to not only make each day a good day, but do everything we can to not suffer unnecessarily.

Whenever you feel yourself angry, sad, hateful, upset – ask yourself, is this worth suffering over?

The answer is almost always a firm no.

Choosing what to suffer over and what not to suffer over is vitally important.  Because no one wants to suffer, the first step is recognizing that you are unnecessarily suffering, and then taking action not to suffer.  The most common solution is to simply shut off the news, notice yourself feeling the emotions you’re feeling, and practicing some more mindfulness, which I’ve written about before.

Without a doubt there is a lot of unnecessary suffering in the world, and we should all work together to relieve it.  Does all suffering originate in the person? Yes, but there are reliably environments which contribute to more suffering (such as living a society riddled with disease and famine), and there are reliably environments which reduce suffering (such as eating dinner with your friends and family who you care about).  But when we shape our environment to one that is conducive to living a live with less unnecessary suffering, we’re better off.

In summary:

  • Life is short, ask yourself in every situation where you notice you’re suffering, is this worth suffering over?
  • Turn off the daily news, it’s designed to scare us.  Instead, focus on your hobbies, or using your creativity to produce or create something.
  • Practice mindfulness daily so you’re more aware of your own emotions.
  • Stay physically active, the mind and the body are one.  How you treat your body influences how you feel.

Make today a good day, and tomorrow a better one.  Life is the collection of the small steps we take to get to where we want to go. Don’t choose to suffer over stuff that doesn’t matter.

Have more to add to this post? Comment below, would love to hear your thoughts/feedback.