The purpose of this page is to provide the most effective tips and practices for living in the modern world.
(Most financially successful executives won’t find anything new here.)
Table of Contents
There are thousands of articles and scores of good meditation apps. All free. There are many cheap or free books, as well.
If you aren’t meditating, you’re probably falling behind. Most of our leaders are doing it.
I have very little to add:
- Ideally: meditate in the same place at the same time every day. We all live by systems, routines, and rules. Are you creating your own or living by those created by others?
- Look at the top 2-3 articles or smartphone apps you find, not more! Even better, ask a friend to help you for a few days.
- Set a countdown timer, not a count-up or I’ll-do-this-for-as-long-as-I-can timer. Start with 2-4 minutes sitting, focusing on your breath. When this 2-4 minutes feels easy (“Holy crap! I thought that was like 18 seconds!”), increase the time. Over a few weeks and months, increase until 15-25 minutes feels easy. I can sit for more than twenty minutes, but I almost never do this, and this is why a countdown timer is important. When twenty minutes is done, it feels easy, the timer goes off, and I go about my day.
- Again: do this at the same time each day and in the same physical place.
- Meditation is not just sitting and focusing on your breath:
- Sitting meditation.
- Walking meditation:
- A) Slowly: take incredibly slow steps in a small space. Find a rhythm with the slow, intentional raising and lowering of the feet and your inhale/exhale breaths.
- B) Quickly: walk normally, ideally outside in a green space. Re-focus, when distracted, on both your internal breath/environment and external environment.
- Yoga asanas.
- Lying down meditation.
- Standing meditation.
- Other forms of intense focus: creating music, painting, cooking, etc. As these skills are slowly mastered, they can, in many respects, be a form of meditation.
Screens: Black and White
Most of us are addicted to our screens. I used to think that having a weekly “no screens” day was a good idea. I still do, but the argument “If you’re addicted to heroin and you only take one day off of heroin per week; you’re still addicted to heroin!” makes the cute one-day of no screens per week sound pretty ridiculous.
Shy of less usage, here’s the greatest tip that’s helped me enjoy my life more: set all screens to black and white (greyscale). Most of the time, color only slows you down. Our brains developed to notice color, to be at peace with vast swaths of green, in awe of grand skies of blue, and excited at small patches of red or other bright colors. This system of color attraction was hijacked by the color television and it’s gone crazy with smartphone addiction. And let’s be honest:
- When you want to check your email, you don’t want color, you just want to check your email as quickly/efficiently as possible.
- Reading a quick news post or consuming information via text?
- Is that “featured image” on the webpage or blog post really helping you at all, let alone its bright colors in the image? Unless it’s a recipe and you need to see the red in the tomatoes versus the green in the basic, the color is probably slowing you down.
- How are the various colors on the left and right of webpages and in the multitude of advertisements affecting your brain? All visual information is processed — if you think you’re ignoring the information, your brain is working hard to ignore the information. Less color means there’s less for the brain to ignore.
Navigating your phone? The bright colors in the icons, notification area, and other various menus are slowing you down, not helping you enjoy life more.
Taking a photo or sorting photos from yesterday? Sometimes you’ll want to see color, but at other times, you’ll actually perform your task much faster without color. And taking a photo is often performed equally well (or better) without color on the screen, because you focus on framing and other issues more.
Watching videos is often simply “color porn” for the brain. Turn the color off on a television show or funny youtube video to see how funny it really is. If it’s hilarious, I agree: it’s even better with color. If it’s not actually that funny, you’ll probably see it for how un-funny it really is without color.
Almost all modern PC operating systems and smartphones can switch, just search online for how to do it on your specific model. My friends with Samsung’s S7 set their home button to triple-click to enable/disable color, which is the fastest phone I’ve seen that can toggle between the two.
Reducing mirror usage
[Note: ladies, please see the essay A Letter to My Unborn Daughters, or: Why American Women Aren’t Leading Anymore]
Self esteem issues? Could be overall health or a micronutrient deficiency, but it also could be highly involved in an addiction to mirrors. I’ll write more extensively in the future on this topic, but suffice it to say:
- The visual image in the mirror is not an accurate representation of what we look like. Our faces aren’t perfectly symmetrical, and extremely tiny asymmetries and differences means that we’re looking at a false representation of ourselves. We would be much better served by a camera+live video image of our faces when we need to perform a task requiring a mirror, but that still wouldn’t help the following challenges.
- We’re looking at a 2D image of a face. This is quite abnormal, as our brains developed to see 3D images of faces all the time (i.e. other faces in person, not on screens or flat mirrors).
- That zit or imperfect makeup? Once in a while, it works in your favor!
- People see you as imperfect, which reminds them you’re only human. The more “successful” you are, the more important these quirks and mistakes are.
- In the eyes of others, it makes you different and more interesting from day to day.
- You spend less time thinking about yourself. This reduced “selfishness” makes most people think about their goals and what makes themselves happier, which, in turn, makes us all a better society.
- Ladies: you’re all addicted to makeup and self-image anyway, and many, many healthy guys (such as myself) will tell you that you’re all more beautiful with less makeup, creams, lotions, products, etc.
Simple and well-known among “successful” people for decades: reduce your consumption of news. Most “news” consumption is simply intellectual masturbation. You “feel” like you’re intelligent and informed, but at the end of the year, are you? No, as 95% of that consumption has no relevance.
Instead, have a weekly 15-minute conversation with a neighbor about what’s going on in your lives — that’s news! — and read one of those long articles or books you’ve always been procrastinating.
Take a media fast
I ended 2016 with the idea that I’d take a near complete “media fast” the entire year of 2017.
A “media fast” is much more potent than the simply reducing news (above). It means consuming little to no media/content of all types for a period of time.
Perhaps the podcasts are becoming overwhelming lately, so for you this might mean a month of no podcasts. Perhaps, like Maria Popova, you’re an avid book reader: take six months and don’t read a single book. And so on.
- Ask yourself, “Why can’t I wait till the end of ____ before consuming this?” I told myself repeatedly in December that I would wait until late 2017 or early 2018 to consume most information. Almost nothing is or will be urgent enough to avoid that.
- Everyone will have exceptions based on what you do for work or are passionate about. For me, I still read GRC’s Security Now! (free) podcast notes each week, and I read examine.com’s curated (paid) digest of health and fitness studies. I could wait until the end of the year to go through the year’s worth, but I’d strongly prefer not to, especially for the former.
- Tim Ferriss’ and other great podcasts? I’ll wait until the end of the year and then decide.
- Books? I’d rather review and re-digest books I’ve already read in one-tenth the time, so I can synthesize and better remember the information contained within (available /booknotes). I’ve only read one book this year, but it was for a very specific purpose: to read a curated list of scientific references for the /lithium page.
- Web articles? They’re mostly crap anyway, but I save a few with Pocket. When I actually need that cheesecake recipe, I’ll search for it and find it!
You’ll quickly notice, like I have, less stress and more enjoyment in your daily life. If sometime tells you personally about a specific episode/article/book that might be relevant to read right now, then you might seriously consider making an exception. But most of the “content” produced in the world is neither important nor, more importantly, urgent, and can be procrastinated until much later.
See the /health and /pills pages for more information to improve your health.
Comments & Feedback
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- What tips or practices help you enjoy your life more?
- What else should this page include?
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