Dealing with everydayness

Distraction takes you away from the stresses of everydayness. This is why we like to keep our phones nearby — screens help entertain our worries away.

But an excess of interference comes at a cost. When we fail to experience things with our senses, virtual and reality become one.

Pain and pleasures are healthy aspects of life. Without them, the lights switch off in our heads.

A coherent me

Stuck and predictable. We stop beating the heart to our own drum.

Instead of chasing our dreams, we ride the coattails of others.

We become a cog that seeks to please rather than to push.

How we align our attention, to the duty or to the clusters of individual freedom, is what determines our self-worth.

The story we tell ourselves works to combat the harsh reality of Monday mornings.

We buck the reassurance of controlled variables for the sake of a cloudy destiny.

The magic double-consciousness

Both attention and boredom are vital to creativity.

Attention works like a gate, opening and closing at the will of seeing. The photographer’s eye spots patterns the same way a poet finds beauty in the mundane.

Yet, boredom is a gateway to mind wandering. It’s a trigger for experiences, a calling for both imagination and novelty.

The mind zig-zags between concerted effort and pause in the attempt to pick up more knowledge. Emphasizing one over the other negates their impact.

Active control also requires a calm discipline.

Self-scrutiny is the thief of joy

What do you for a living? It’s either the first or last question you want to answer at a dinner party.

Any time you have to open up about a personal topic it burns the lips.

Comparisons are natural, contentedness is artificial. Everyone acts happy but they always want what they don’t have.

If you earn $50,000 a year, you want $100,000. If you’re stuck in a cubicle, you want to work from the beach. If you’re single, you want a partner.

The opposite is true: just switch the latter with the desire for more time, a stable job, and more privacy.

Life is a game riddled with paradoxes. This realization should elucidate what truly motivates you.

Your level of happiness depends on your ability to appreciate what you got multiplied by a personal projection of where you want to go.

Self-scrutiny is a therefore a type of theft.

Fifteen minutes for eternity

We all want to be fifteen minutes ahead of everybody, fifteen minutes of fame, and fifteen minutes of bliss.

Not ten, not five, but fifteen.

Fifteen is just enough time to bake in an experience, to create something memorable even if we don’t deem it worthwhile.

We feel the freest when we’re most in danger, the paradox of escaping everydayness.

In search of a stimulus, the rush of blood to the head turns a moment into a milestone of excitement.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” John Milton

Once we scratch the itch, life can go on.

A fleeting fifteen minutes is sometimes all we need to keep going. It’s the clock that stops.

‘Be the bamboo tree which bends toward the wind’

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“Alive, a man is supple, soft; in death, unbending rigor. All creatures, grass and trees, alive are plastic, but are pliant, too, and [in] death all feeble and dry. Unbending rigor is the mate of death, and yielding softness, [the] company of life. Unbending soldiers get no victories, the stiffest tree is readiest for the ax. The strong and mighty belong to the bottom, the soft and yielding rise above them all.

The strongest is he that makes use of his opponent’s strength—be the bamboo tree which bends toward the wind; and when the wind ceases, it springs back stronger than before.

— Bruce Lee, Bruce Lee: Artist of Life

Embrace the swings

We need the yin and the yang, excitement and disappointment, anxiety and relief, work and play, optimism and pessimism, drunk and consciousness.

It is in the forced escape of one or the other that makes it worse. But the habit of no habits is a self-inflicted curse.

Talk is cheap, including the words to ourselves. An overactive inner narrative that drives for perfection confuses a reality which calls for a pendulum of emotions and actions.

Acceptance is not so much a magic trick than a coping mechanism.

Embrace the swings.

How design controls behavior

Design dictates behavior.

Put a feature front and center like Instagram or Facebook Stories and it’s nearly impossible not to click.

Keep a smartphone around while you’re doing work or eating and you’ll fight the urge to pick it up.

Listen to enough conspiracy theories and you’re bound to think that they’re true regardless of the evidence.

Design strips the will of its own control. But it also provides a two way street.

Design gave Macs an identity. Before Apple, computers looked like refrigerator units. SATs are designed to filter out lazy students. International airport queues divide national and international passports.

Design regulates everything from impulse, order, to culture. Knowing what’s marketing, what’s propaganda, and what’s pragmatically useful is a practice in design.

When you step back and reset the framework, all the design features are up to you.

What spreads, rarely sticks

The problems never stop. If they did, they would no longer be problems. They’d be solutions.

The good thing about solutions is that they’re typically social-proof and benefit from the network effect: What works for one person multiplies as commonality gets shared with the next.

The simplest form of information exchange is language. Words are memes. And memes can be rebranded and copy-pasted, completely overriding the origin. Even Dunkin’ Donuts made the word doughnut extinct.

Physical nature can also be maximized. The city, like an ant hill, is one big shared experience, a marketplace for swapping ideas. Residency, streets, bridges — all spawned from tiny cells into a collective pinnacle of innovation.

At the root of every solitary puzzle is a chance to do our best, to graduate from the individual to some type of collective high where the concept gets received and adopted.

The lone genius is a myth. Behind every wizard lies a team. No crowds, no celebrities.

Thinking, doing, and building all require form maintenance to ensure longevity. ‘Build it, and they will come is’ therefore a canard. A product’s existence depends on the strength of marketing and overall spreadability.

The Lindy effect says if a book is around a decade, it’ll last for another 50 years. Ideas and products are at the mercy of banter and eyeballs. Whatever gets shared sticks around.

When the crazy ones propose anything novel, they beg for neighborhood’s attention. It is the external reaction, the possibility of adoption that excites the misunderstood maker. That is, until the urge to recreate the system sparks blindness toward the facets worth keeping.

“We build our computer (systems) the way we build our cities: over time, without a plan, on top of ruins.” — Ellen Ullman

For better or worse, mass adoption is what triggers the desire to invent something new.

The irrationality stick

Irrationality runs rampant, pervading every human that dare unthink its power. 

Call it karma. Call it branding. Call it exuberance. The effect is burning beyond the reality of facts. Instead, perceived progress is all visceral. 

But like any other placebo, a little drunkenness works still. All we need is conviction. The rest of the story perpetuates itself. 

Winning a coin toss

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“There never was a man who could go out in the morning and find a purse full of gold in the street today, and another tomorrow, and so on, day after day. He may do so once in his life; but so far as mere luck is concerned, he is as liable to lose it as to find it.” — PT Barnum

At some point in your life, you’ve probably been lucky. And while you have more luck to come, there will be pitfalls along the way. Such is the sine wave that is life.

As John Berger wrote, “You can plan events, but if they go according to your plan they are not events.”

Good photographers always seem to be in the right place at the right time. That’s because they are in a position to capture the magical shot when it happens.

With the right intentions, you can manufacture your own luck. But you want long-term serotonin over short-term dopamine.

A harsh test always follows beginner’s luck. And that is when you’ll know if the destination was meant for you.

“It’s called the principle of favorability, beginner’s luck. Because life wants you to achieve your Personal Legend.” The Alchemist 

Embracing uncertainty

Monkey embracing uncertainty

Bored when you know too much. Anxious when you know too little.

The good news is that you can’t control the universe. Acknowledging your powerlessness should set you free instead of trying to float onto absolutes.

Writes lifehacker Darius Foroux:

Lighten up. Relax your muscles. Get rid of that tense face. Don’t worry. And have faith in yourself.

Every minute that you’re investing in yourself will have a return. You just don’t know when that is.

Maybe it’s tomorrow, or maybe it’s in 10 years.

Who knows?

Who knows if your most electrifying life and work are yet to come or shit’s going to hit the fan.

But if you’re reading this, chances are you’re probably worth fighting for.

The quest for self-improvement at least brings novelty, even if the impact is rarely immediate. 

Facing opposites

face to face

We want to reduce the stress in our lives, yet we keep piling on the number of things we need to do. We travel arms wide open into a tidal wave of responsibilities.

We want to restrict the data tech companies collect from us, yet we swipe right at consent. All terms, all conditions, in favor of the Leviathan.

We want to think we’re a curious bunch, open to a world unknown, yet act like novices at the ways of seeing. What is new leads somewhere new, absent the spot.

We meditate to detach the mind from surfeit consciousness when simply going for a walk, doing the dishes, or shooting hoops produces the same relaxing effect. With little effort, the neuronal spike trains intensify in voltage.

Opposite to everything, without opposition to anything. Whatever one says is true, the opposite is equally true.

Inside the head

gif by Jason Clarke
  • Mute/unmute
  • Blind to our blindness
  • Freedom within the cube

Our sensory perception tells us how we should interpret the world, which is often a series of paradoxes. It’s the bits in the brain that make the world a reality, not the external stimuli itself.

“If you could perceive reality as it really is, you would be shocked by its colorless, odorless, tasteless silence.”

David Eagleman, neuroscientist

Like breathing in air, we take the information we need and spit it back out. A cycle of gases, presence is a gif loop stuck on belief.

Give it time to simmer

Nothing ever gets wasted. It just needs time to ‘simmer.’

Gather everything you need to know, facts and crazy ideas, and then let them have sex while you do other stuff, even procrastinating.

Revelations follow not when you’re always on but when you let the unconscious mind go to work. Being overly wake, in other words, spurns the lucidity of ideas.

Don’t force it.

Wanting discovery and getting it is a process of patience. The rest of the time begs for play.

“The physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t have a destination that it ought to arrive at. But it is best understood by its analogy to music. Because music as an art form is essentially playful. We say you play the piano, you don’t work the piano.” Alan Watts

gif by David Koblesky