Monthly Archives: December 2018

I’m Loving: Calm

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On Cyber Monday, I received a barrage of emails trying to convince me (quite the price sensitive – a euphemism for fru- … cheap – consumer ) to pull out my credit card and ‘treat myself’.

The only purchase I made on that day was a year-long subscription to Calm.

At the beautiful price-point of $30 for 12 months, I now have access to a meditation toolkit, optimized by software engineers, to get me hooked on… finding my breath and noticing my thought patterns. 

I have been spending upwards of 20 minutes meditating every day for the last week or so. It is nice to breathe during my work day and recognize my breath, appreciate the moment, and step back from whatever ideas are consuming me.

For those fellow users wondering, I am definitely a rain sounds kinda guy.

If you’re curious about meditation but don’t know where to get started, I’d highly recommend this short little Youtube video. I was listening to that with some frequency before Calm sold me. 

I know that I’m an ad. Do you?

As of 12/10/18, no one has offered me any money for any of my writings but I wouldn’t mind it if someone did…

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399 Days of Monochrome

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FYI: Monochrome is a change to UX so my screenshots are in color
I highly recommend GoalTracker for my fellow Android users. I will say more about this another time.

399 days ago, I decided to dive in and use my phone in monochrome (everything is a shade from white to black).

The general idea is that lovely UX designers spend hours and hours of time trying to optimize the aesthetics of their operating system, application, etc. ( let alone advertisers and other content creators). If you want to have the most pleasurable experience on your device, you should surely avoid taking such drastic action as placing your phone in monochrome.

However, my goal was to try to reduce my addiction to my phone, and its associated content. I still use my phone a lot but this change has certainly curbed my usage, or at least prevented the beautiful Pixel 2 from giving me its optimally-engineered dopamine hits. 

I don’t have any data about my pre v. post monochrome usage. But I do know that when I recommend this change to people, they usually quit after a few days and their reason is “I hated it.

It seems probable to me that this hate is comparable to the experience I would have if I suddenly transitioned to decaf. The decreased brain stimulus would tempt me to switch back but, at some time scale, I’d probably just curb my [excessive] coffee intake in-general. 

I have now began to also utilize the Android Digital Wellness update to track my usage. I have primarily set barriers on using Tinder (god awful app but my dating life is abysmal in Rochester, NY), Brave, and other time sinks. 

We live in a brave new world and it’s unclear how much time we should spend on our devices or what trade-offs are worth making. I hope that you’ll join me in seeking to explore and develop stable, healthy norms for how we relate to our devices, the internet, and each other via [anti]social platforms. 

If you’re interested in experimenting with monochrome, here’s a guide for various devices.

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Why I Work

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I have been working through Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

In one of the activities, they ask you to describe your workview – why you work – referring to all of your labors, not just what you do for money.

I work:

  • Out of respect for those who came before and labored so we could have such wealthy, blessed lives (ie. compared to people historically)
  • Because I want to be attractive to my [future] wife, high-value to my friends, and a role-model, reliable figure for my [future] children
  • Because I am blessed with good health, a highly-valued education, and a set of unique, valuable talents
  • Because I want to give back to my local community and increase the standard-of-living of the most vulnerable in our society
  • Because I want to have credibility and influence with decision-makers who will impact our community, nation, and world in non-linear ways
  • Because I know a purely materialistic worldview is naive and that honor, accomplishment, and responsibility add to the richness of life
  • Because I have been inspired and supported by hardworking people who are happy, energized by life, and who embody a non-materialistic version of ‘success’
  • Because it gives me energy
  • Because it creates opportunities to meet amazing, driven people who share my values and challenge my assumptions
  • Because having to be awake and in specific locations at certain times brings order to my life that is conducive to a healthy lifestyle
  • Because I like to solve problems and experience the personal growth that comes through facing challenges
  • Because the transmutation of my labor into service and wealth means there will be less poverty and suffering in the world
  • Because I want to amass excess capital so I can use it to support bold, risky ideas that have the potential to solve people’s problems
  • Because humanity’s survival and prosperity is not guaranteed and perhaps even improbable
  • Because, believing the above bullet, it still helps me to sleep at night

Why do you work?

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Quote On My Mind 12/8/18

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Being imaginative and dreaming is absolutely important. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise and don’t let considerations of ‘the practical’ mute or dull your ability to dream.

Paul J. Burgett
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Via Negativa and the Copenhagen Consensus Center

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“The Copenhagen Consensus Center is a think tank that researches the smartest solutions for the world’s biggest problems, advising policy-makers and philanthropists how to spend their money most effectively.”

This institution has attempted to rank-order interventions that philanthropic humanists should engage in to maximize their return, articulated in $USD return-on-investment per $USD spent. I will not attempt to characterize their methods, as any attempted summary would be perceived as ignorance.

Here are a couple examples so you clearly understand what I am referring to:
One-page of rank-ordered developmental goals
Top 19 targets for work development
They even did a national focused one for Haiti!

I have no doubt that many of these interventions could have non-linear positive consequences. However, they are still interventions, which brings us to Via Negativa.

VIA NEGATIVA is a powerful concept which was, at the least, re-popularized by Nassim Taleb in his book Antifragile (more on that another time; I would recommend that anyone reading this post read Taleb, even if you hate it (I mean, it’s overrated)) .

Via Negativa translates to ‘negative way’. It is a method of improving a system or gaining a greater understanding by subtracting, rather than by adding, or intervening. The basic idea being: intervention can bring severe, negative unintended consequences. Whereas, Via Negativa we are removing complexity from the system and are less likely to inadvertently cause [net] harm. 

Fictional personal example – (note: I am not a licensed professional of anything and taking any ‘advice’ from me is your liability, not mine): I went to the doctor and the test said my blood pressure was high. She prescribed to me a medication to bring it to a healthy level. I went back to the doctor 6 months later because I was having some issues. My blood pressure was fine but now I had another problem and it now also required a medication…

or:

I went to the doctor and the test said my blood pressure was high. She recommended that I take a medication to reduce it. I said “No thank you, doctor”. I thought there could be many non-threatening reasons why my blood pressure was high on that particular day. Work had been stressful lately. However, I decided that it was just another reason to quit smoking cigarettes. [Thank you, Easy Way]. I went back to the doctor one year later for a check-up and my blood pressure was great and my Doctor told me that my lungs sounded healthy…

With this concept in mind, I would be interested in seeing a distinct set of prescriptions, of the sort of The Copenhagen Consensus Center -perhaps only at the national level, that strictly advocated for the [hypothetically] optimal, Via Negativa solutions.

We couldn’t even really compare the effect of these solutions to [m]any advocated by The Copenhagen Consensus Center. They might involve not spending millions of dollars to not do millions of dollars of harm. A $USD return-on-investment per $USD not spent, or -$USD spent!

If I am doing so much which is harmful, and could be best resolved by reducing actions, how much less harm could our institutions do Via Negativa?

This post should not be construed to mean that The Copenhagen Consensus Center is wrong and bad. This post should not be construed to mean that institutions only do harm. I also believe that, like many institutions, I may do harm but I am a net good – all I am suggesting is that we strive to avoid doing harm when we mean to do good. 

P.S.: I have never been addicted to cigarettes or alcohol but I did read The Easy Way To Stop Drinking by Allen Carr from cover to cover.

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