Richer by design

What if we had everything we already need? We can give value to things that already exists and instantly feel richer.

Say you don’t own a car so you have to take the train or bus to work. Outsourcing the driving frees up your time to do something else like plan your week, catch up on the news, or get some more sleep. Time is extra money earned.

Owning a car can be a burden. And while it makes grocery shopping and running errands on the weekends, we can appreciate the benefits of an automobile’s absence during the week. 

Just as constriction begets creativity, we can find value in our limitations to find our own happiness. It’s all the complaining that drags us down.

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Give yourself permission to build 

Motivation ebbs and flows. It is fickle and short-lasting.

So we can’t wait for the muse to compel us to work. As Chuck Close said, “inspiration is for amateurs.”

However, what we can do is develop a passion for something, fire up our grit to push through crap (criticism, rejection, assholes, and pressure), and give ourselves permission to act like the finishers did before us.

It is discipline that converts information into actionable items. We learn nothing until we put knowledge and possibility into use.

Everything is practice.

Fear is never as bad as it seems

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Most fears are irrational.

When we let what we’re scared of drive our decision-making, we seek safety which mostly means inaction. Like algae, we prefer to stay local, isolated from the from the sun that feeds us with its light.

So how can we get where we want to go when a constant state of dread lies in our way?

When stuck in doubt, heed the words of Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” The amygdala exaggerates our anxieties.

If we’re courageous enough, we’ll say yes and do it anyway.

Fear is both natural and artificial; if used wisely, it can be the impetus for action.

Schedule nothing 

Illustration by Alex Norris

We live and die by our to-do lists.

From priorities, daily activities, to short and long-term goals, the to-do list steers our purpose and directs our attention.

But then we get distracted. We lose motivation. We gravitate toward doing the other things that grab our immediate interest.

We all know our big must complete tasks. There’s no need to write them down. Perhaps the best call to action starts with making our bed or converting unnecessary busyness into idleness by allowing our mind to float.

It’s the unwritten habits, and the deliberate pauses in our day, that really set us up for the work we’re meant to do.

Procrastinators can be finishers

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We are told to ship it; release it before it’s finished, get it out of our hands so we can get the feedback we need to iterate and perfect our product. It’s a grueling process that fires up the anxiety. Is this thing going to work or go out to the void?

In his latest op-ed Why Do Anything? A Meditation on Procrastination Humanities professor and author Costica Bradatan writes:

Procrastination and mourning are tied tightly together: for to procrastinate is to mourn the precariousness of your creation even before you bring it into the world.

We are stuck between thinking and action, for which we have no choice but to finish what we started:

The procrastinator is both contemplator and man of action, which is the worst thing to be, and which is tearing him apart.

Procrastination is the purest form of idleness. And it is brain’s neurons that dictate what we decide to do. “Who you are depends on what your neurons are up to, moment by moment,” says David Eagleman in his book The Brain: The Story of You.

So if neurons predict our fate but the mind is plastic, we should be setting up the entire system to prepare for better decision-making. For starters, we can make a list of the things we can control. But there will never be any guarantees that it’ll work. That’s where the habits and enthusiasm come in to help us overcome the fear.

TED Talk: Tim Ferriss ‘Fear-setting’

As an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, investor, motivational speaker, and life hacker, Tim Ferriss is a jack of all trades.

Like many of us, he’s obsessed with work and optimizing work habits. But he learned the hard way. A near suicide and a breakup with his girlfriend made him change. Instead of being goal-driven, he played with ‘what ifs’ in what he calls fear-setting.

To much chagrin, he left his business in 2004 to spend a month in London. It turned out all those fears he had – his company would collapse, the IRS would come after him — never happened. The opposite unfolded. He ended up traveling the world for a year where he lived more and worked less. an experience which led him to write his best-selling book The 4-Hour Work Week.

At the core of Tim’s life-practice is stoicism, an age old philosophy that has guided successful leaders from George Washington to Bill Belichick.

So around 300 BC in Athens, someone named Zeno of Citium taught many lectures walking around a painted porch, a “stoa.” That later became “stoicism.” And in the Greco-Roman world, people used stoicism as a comprehensive system for doing many, many things. But for our purposes, chief among them was training yourself to separate what you can control from what you cannot control, and then doing exercises to focus exclusively on the former. This decreases emotional reactivity, which can be a superpower.

There are two quotes Tim always keeps the top of mind in his daily life. The first is that “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality,” wrote the Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger. The second comes from a modern-day Stoic Jerzy Gregorek “Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life,” which became the backbone in his survival as a political refugee and endurance as four-time world champion Olympic weightlifter. 

Fear-setting is a life practice. It takes a lot of nerve to imagine our worst fears and take calculated risks, but the cost of inaction is even worse. Remember things are never as bad as they seem.

Eureka moments are a myth

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The story goes that in 1726, the elder physicist Isaac Newton discovered insight into gravity after an Apple dropped from a tree and hit him on the head. In reality, he did a lot of thinking outside while staring at the surrounding apple trees, “occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood,” wrote his Newton’s friend and biographer William Stukeley.

We polish stories, embellish them, so they’re more memorable and therefore shareable. To quote librarian Keith Moore, the Newton story is “an 18th-century sound bite.”

But I would go one step further in saying that there’s no such thing as a Eureka moment. Rather, light-bulb moments arise because we’ve already spent a long time thinking about them.

It’s no surprise that they happen in dull moments when we’ve shut down, such as in the shower or when we’re doing the dishes. The right ‘creative’ brain is always in search of triggers to connect the external world to preexisting observations.

This is why planning unscheduled time is so vital to the work process. We have to get out of our own heads.

In short, Eureka moments are a myth; they merely occur when we’re thinking without thinking. A resting mind still hungers for stimulation because creativity is always awake.

Chaos and order in NYC

Photo by Wells Baum
Below is an excerpt from my book Train of Thought which you can read online for free. If you want to support my work, please snag a copy on Amazon.

Paul tried to make every one of eighty-plus daily phone pickups count. The more he shot, the more photos he had to play with. The only challenge in photographing New York was the bombardment of sensory stimulation; stories oozed with opportunity in every open corner and alleyway, yet nothing, not even Broadway, felt staged. The city thrived off chaos, and it worked like a pre-programmed video game. Those who ignored the beauty of its complexity were the most aloof rats in the cage. The City struck all the right neurological notes, but you had to learn how to see to catch the profound silence in between the disorder. 

From Train of Thought: Reflections on the Coast Starlight

Timeless lessons

Some books are timeless.

This is because someone spent the time to aggregate all their notes and thoughts to tell a story or teach a lesson. 

News, Instagrams, etc, all expire. Like fast food, we forget about them just as fast as we consume them.

The difference between expiring and long-term knowledge is the educational intent. Says business writer Morgan Housel on the timelessness of The Intelligent Investor penned by Ben Graham in 1934:

It’s amazing how much of the information we consume has a half life measured in days or months, and how little is like Graham’s book – cherished for decades because it teaches something with permanent relevance.

It’s nearly impossible to know what works authored today will go on to have relevance forever. Surely, no one will care either about the Kardashians or a Taylor Swift song decades from now? The acme of selfie-based culture and formulaic tunes won’t last forever. 

Technology and culture are always evolving but the simple truths remain the same.

Who out there in today’s world is doing deep work and why we should we care? The sure test of a seminal piece of work will be its applicability now and then.

Snatch

 

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Our inner narrative is alive 24/7. Most of our thoughts are garbage, random and unintelligible. But we can dictate some of it, to write the book in our head we want to hear.

That’s why it’s so critical to surround ourselves with things that reinforce the way we want to think and live. When author Ryan Holiday got stuck on his last book, he walked the streets of New Orleans to reboot his mind.

New Orleans was really the perfect city to write in. I said at my first book signing that writing a book is really a series of long walks. There’s not a better city to walk in in America. It’s old and beautiful and slow. There’s a history of great writers there—a connectedness to the past that was inspiring. I was having trouble finishing this book I’ve been working on and I actually just went and spent 10 days there to recapture it. Worked like a charm.

In reality, we’re never stuck. When it comes to the mind, there is no such thing as talker’s block. We are in continuous dialogue with ourselves. But we decide to catch, ignore, emphasize, and act on is what makes all the difference. If we want something, we have to extract meaning from both external and internal worlds.

We become the person we look and listen to. To quote author Charles Bukowski: “Yes, it’s the dream that keeps you going then and now.”

Mental retirement 


Wouldn’t it be great to retire by thirty or forty years old? What sounds good in theory though has negative consequences for the brain. 

Indeed, a lot of work is repetitive and unnecessarily political, as we jump through hoops to make it up the ladder. And while our work may not be the most stimulating thing to do, it keeps our brain active. 

Studies show a correlation between retirement and memory loss.

The researchers find a straight-line relationship between the percentage of people in a country who are working at age 60 to 64 and their performance on memory tests. The longer people in a country keep working, the better, as a group, they do on the tests when they are in their early 60s.

We need challenges. We need some type of mind games to keep our brains fresh as we age. If we can’t recall how to act like inquisitive children who willfully fail, we need something more than physical exercise to hold up neurological plasticity. 

While work can be depressing, it’s keeps the brain cells running. Excess relaxation is what dulls the mind. Use it or lose it. 

Newsletter: How to stretch out your weekends, why both focus and unfocus are vital, new tunes from Buddy and more

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Man Sitting on a Boat Albertus H. Baldwin (1865–1935) : The MET

Arts and Culture

David Sedaris On The Life-Altering And Mundane Pages Of His Old Diaries

In this interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, American humorist and comedian David Sedaris reflects on the rough diary entries that became his new book Theft by Finding and why he always wanted to be a successful writer.

A lot of people don’t know what they want, or they’re just kind of vague about it. I was never vague. I knew exactly what I wanted. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to get it, but it’s scary … because what if that doesn’t happen?

npr.org

Why Are Doughnut Boxes Pink?

Yesterday was #NationalDonutDay. Here’s the history on donuts in one GIF. But you know those brassy looking pink donut bags at high-end bakeries? It’s a marketing gimmick; a trigger for emotions. It’s no surprise that they’re a product of LA.

“How the pink box has persevered so long may be about more than just dollars and cents. Experts say the color triggers an emotional connection to sweetness that makes doughnuts more irresistible than they already are…Anytime you see a movie or sitcom set in New York and a pink doughnut box appears, you know it obviously took place in L.A.”

latimes.com

Philosophy and Productivity

Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus

We try too hard to find the perfect formula behind productivity. What if the brain prefers to multitask, toggling between focus and unfocus?

In keeping with recent research, both focus and unfocus are vital. The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus, allowing you to develop resilience, enhance creativity, and make better decisions too.

hbr.org

The Secret to Making Your Weekends Feel Longer

If you want to stretch time, experience something new on the weekends. Break up the time with simple excursions. For instance, go play your Nintendo Switch in the park rather than from the couch. Read and write somewhere else other than your study desk or favorite cafe.

“According to David Eagleman, professor at Stanford University and the author of The Brain: The Story of You, pursuing new settings, new activities, and new experiences is the best way to “stretch time,” so to speak. It all comes down to what your brain perceives as novel. When you spend time doing something unfamiliar, your brain focuses more on collecting the data associated with the activity, thus creating a more thorough memory of the experience. When you reflect on that memory, it feels like you had more time.”

lifehacker.com

Social Media & Technology

Fuck Facebook

The love-hate relationship with Facebook continues, at least for hardcore bloggers Dave Winer and John Gruber, who explain why Facebook is “all-out attack on the open web.”

Treat Facebook as the private walled garden that it is. If you want something to be publicly accessible, post it to a real blog on any platform that embraces the real web, the open one.

daringfireball.net

More addictive: Fidget spinners or smartphones?

While we’re at it, fuck fidget spinners too. I put together a roundup of some of the best illustrations reflecting the obsession with both widgets.

wellsbaum.blog 

Digging in the Crates

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Compton-based rapper Buddy is back with some beats and rhymes on the 5-track EP entitled Ocean & Montana, a collaboration with Canadian producer Kaytranada.

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Shugo Tokumaru is a Japanese singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. He’s basically a one-man show.

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Quote of the week

“Until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice. At 110, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive.”

Katsushika Hokusai


For more interesting reads and new music, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or the Twitter feed. You can also subscribe to the blogs: wellsbaum.blog and bombtune.comIf you dig the blogs and want to support them, make a donation, buy a book, or email this post to a friend.

How to stretch time on weekends


If you want to stretch time, experience something new on the weekends.

Break up the time with simple excursions. For instance, go play your Nintendo Switch in the park rather than from the couch. Read and write somewhere else other than your study desk or favorite cafe.

If you’re a photographer, take on one of Instagram’s weekly photo challenges.

From Lifehacker:

“According to David Eagleman, professor at Stanford University and the author of The Brain: The Story of You, pursuing new settings, new activities, and new experiences is the best way to “stretch time,” so to speak. It all comes down to what your brain perceives as novel. When you spend time doing something unfamiliar, your brain focuses more on collecting the data associated with the activity, thus creating a more thorough memory of the experience. When you reflect on that memory, it feels like you had more time.”

In short, tweak your routine by changing your environment. Get off your ass and go somewhere else.

 

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If you want to slow down time, surround yourself with novelty. The mind is desperate for new experiences.

Do small things, differently.

 

Newsletter: The History of Nostalgia, The Advantage Of Being A Little Underemployed, new tunes from Yasmine Hamdan and more

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Schreiber’s Hummingbird, from Birds of the Tropics series (N38) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes (1889) : The MET

Arts and Culture

Maria Loh On Lives Of Artists

We may live in the age of selfie but we’ve always been self-absorbed. Maria Loh, author of Still Lives: Death, Desire, and the Portrait of the Old Masteroutlines five books which address the history of the curated self with an emphasis on artists who painted their own portraits to cement their legacy.

“Art was a form of visual philosophy written with brushes and chisels rather than with pen and ink”

fivebooks.com

+ Before the self-portrait, the rise of ownership of mirrors in the 15th century gave people their first feeling of individuality.

Look back with danger

Nostalgia didn’t always have a positive tone. In fact, before the 20th century, the word was used in the pejorative sense.

Nostalgia in those days was a technical term used and discussed primarily by specialists. In the twentieth century, however, the word has become fully demedic­alized. It now means little more than a sentimental attachment to a lost or past era, a fuzzy feeling about a soft-focus earlier time, and is more often used of an advertising campaign, a film or a memory of childhood than with regard to any strong sense of its etymology, “pain about homecoming”.

the_tls.co

Philosophy & Productivity

The Advantage Of Being A Little Underemployed

It’s crazy to think that a hundred years after the Adamson Act passed, we’re still working the same eight-hour shifts designed for railroad workers. Given that most of us work in front of computers and our best ideas come when we step outside it, how can we free up more time to think? Writes Morgan Housel:

“Tell your boss you found a trick that will make you more creative and productive, and they ask what you’re waiting for. Tell them that your trick is taking a 90-minute walk in the middle of the day, and they says no, you need to work.”

collaborativefund.com

Platonically irrational

We think modernity is superior to the past. But we too can be intellectually overconfident. “When Kahneman writes that we are ‘blind to our blindness’, he is reviving the Socratic idea that wisdom consists in seeing one’s blindness: knowing what you do not know.” Within all facts and reasoning, there’s still a little room for doubt.

This is only a preliminary step in Plato’s dialogues – a (good-natured) reaching after fact and reason should and does occur – but an initial tolerance of uncertainty is a capacity without which individuals and societies cannot adequately self-correct and improve. 

aeon.com

Social Media & Technology

Notes From An Emergency

The internet companies are not only American-based, but their manifest destiny also makes them look like hegemonic colonizers.

“This is a dilemma of the feudal internet. We seek protection from these companies because they can offer us security. But their business model is to make us more vulnerable, by getting us to surrender more of the details of our lives to their servers, and to put more faith in the algorithms they train on our observed behavior.”

idlewords.com

The Library of Congress Wants to Destroy Your Old CDs (for Science)

CDs were once expensive, plastic things. But they were built really cheap. I just tried popping on an old Chemical Brothers mix, and it didn’t even play. Blame the sharpie.

It’s also better not to muck up the top of your CDs with labels—the adhesive creates chemical reactions that quickly eat up data—or even permanent markers. “The moment you start to write on that top layer, you’re setting yourself up for degradation.”

theatlantic.com

Digging in the Crates

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Shanti Celeste is an up and coming house producer from Bristol, England. Her latest 2-track EP features the jungle healer ‘Make Time,’ combining a rich collection of synths and electronic breaks. A real treat.

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Yasmine Hamdan is a Parisian-based electronic musician who grew up in war-torn Lebanon. While’s she gained a reputation in the Middle East as an underground artist, her latest solo record Al Jamilat plans to unleash her to a broader audience. The track ‘La Ba’den’ offers dreamy electronic Arab vibes. Compelling stuff.

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Thought of the Week

“Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

Martin Luther King Jr.


For more interesting reads and new music, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or the Twitter feed. You can also subscribe to the blogs: wellsbaum.blog and bombtune.comIf you dig the blogs and want to support them, make a donation, buy a book, or email this post to a friend.