“Burnout is caused when you repeatedly make large amounts of sacrifice and or effort into high-risk problems that fail. (…) You effectively condition your brain to associate work with failure.”
An excellent explanation of burnout by Isaac Yonemoto. Simply put, your brain needs success – no matter how small.
If you have a spare $100 and want to invest it in the most profitable way possible, go and buy a bike right now.
What’s the Return of Investment on this purchase? It’s hard to measure directly. It’s easy, however, to list the areas of life influenced:
- Physical fitness & exercise.
- Tons of money saved on public transportation and/or fuel.
- Simple happiness. It’s rare to see a sad, grumpy person on a bike – yet buses and cars are full of those types.
- Time saved. Depending on where you live, it can be substantial.
- Drinking less. This means both saving money and improving your health.
- Freedom. You’re no longer constrained by streets, lines, tracks & timetables. You’re free to explore – just like when you were a child. How cool is that?
Considering how much there is to gain, not riding a bike is not just silly – it’s plain unwise. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the real lifehack. So much for just $100.
PS. Don’t toss your excuses at me. I don’t care. After all, it’s about your happiness, not mine.
A little intermission.
It’s slowly dawning on me how much I’ve been surrounding myself with the culture of productivity. All the TODO lists, GTD techniques, lifehacks and tricks mean nothing. Just nothing. These are all solutions to a wrong problem.
Thing is: if you keep focusing on something and keep failing, it’s not the issue of you trying in a wrong way. It’s the issue of you not focusing on what’s important for you. Once you determine what you want to do with your life, you don’t need any time management techniques to do it. Jeff Atwood summed it up perfectly in his blog post:
For the things in my life that actually mattered, I’ve never needed any to-do list to tell me to do them.
He gives a more practical implication of the above, too:
If you can’t wake up every day and, using your 100% original equipment God-given organic brain, come up with the three most important things you need to do that day – then you should seriously work on fixing that.
I’m really tired of the chase, of the rat race of today’s life. That’s why I quit Facebook and Instagram, that’s why I’ve blocked Hacker News on all my computers – simply because I don’t want to be surrounded by proof that everyone else is having fun constantly. Life is a mix of good and bad – and I want it to stay that way.
There’s a little story to be told here. A friend dropped in for a breakfast a few days ago; and she took the opportunity to snap a quick Instagram to show how much fun we were having. Sure, it was a really beautiful morning, but the photo obviously didn’t mention the important things that we discussed. That colorful photo didn’t mention that she got barely any sleep the previous night or that she was disappointed some of her new friends hitting on her. All it said was “we’re having fun”.
I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again: this is not real life. This is some kind of fucking phony glittery fake. This is also the very reason I’m still using a film camera: because it means no one dictates what I should photograph. I don’t care how much likes or reblogs I get – I don’t think I even remember how to check that. I’d rather get one person to say my writing is inspiring that to get 100 likes under the blog posts.
I’ve been living with scarcely any money for the last three weeks. I simply ran out of it. It’s a semi-controlled experiment; something half-planned and half-assed. And the results are amazing.
- Do you often go to the kitchen, look in the fridge, and walk away disappointed because there’s supposedly “nothing” to eat? Well… when you do this, you’re 1) not hungry, 2) bored and 3) lazy. Without cash, but with some products stashed in the kitchen and ample time, I’m cooking more than ever – simply because if I don’t, I’ll be hungry. Motivation works wonders: yesterday I baked a pie simply because I found out I had all the ingredients needed. It was the best apple pie I ever ate and the first one I ever made.
- I’m amazed by how little I actually need to spend. This is hard to even describe: recently I couldn’t afford any whims and compulsive purchases and found this had NO EFFECT ON MY HAPPINESS WHATSOEVER. No, wait. It had: I cherish whatever I have much more. I also started paying attention to intrinsic value of things instead of their price tags. A 2008 MacBook? As long as it does the job, it’s okay. Basically, I rejected the consumer approach to life and it didn’t kill me.
- All this craziness is contributing wonderfully to my health & lifestyle. Since I have to pay attention to what I’m eating (due to costs & limited choices), I stopped buying junk food: frozen/convenience stuff, chocolate, sweets, white bread, etc. As a consequence, the less I spend on food, the better my meals become. I know it sounds crazy – with a food budget of $3/day I just can’t afford frozen pizza anymore.
What’s the moral of this story? I don’t know – but it seems to me the Western culture has got it all wrong. Spending is a really bad habit. Cutting ties between spending and pleasure is hard, since it involves not spending for a period of time – but once you’re through, you won’t ever want to go back.
PS. Coincidentally, cooking seems like a pretty good antidote to burnout. There’s immediate gratification for the efforts, in form of both satisfaction and food. This should help get the confused brain back on track.
Embracing a more healthy lifestyle reveals an ugly truth: what is easily reachable and feels good is usually harmful. There’s my list:
- sugar-heavy drinks: soda, juice;
- convenience foods, most of them meat- or cheese-based;
- chocolate, sweets, etc.
Want a hamburger? Pizza? Beer? Candy bars? No problem; you can get them at any petrol station at any hour. Want some carrots at 2AM? Haha! Eat grit, fucker! Being vegetarian is lame, right?
* * *
I found a 24/7 vegetable store in my neighborhood. Technically, it’s a petrol station – but they also sell a really nice variety of vegetables, grains, seeds etc. The first time I saw it – and it was at 1AM – I was so flabbergasted I stood outside for a few minutes until an employee came out to ask if I’m okay. It was simply so surprising that anything besides fast food can be sold at night that my mind couldn’t process the information.
PS. Groceries in London are open until 1-2AM. It was one of those “aha!” moments when I realized this. There’s demand – so there’s supply. Too bad it doesn’t work in Poland this way; supermarkets aside, all you can get after 6PM is basically junk food.
There’s a certain pull I feel: a feeling towards things physical. After all, why do I prefer black & white film photography over digital work? Embedded development over software development? Devices over web services? Talking over texting? Preparing my own meals over buying them? There’s a pattern in this.
Making a physical object is a craft in itself. All the effort spent on designs, ideas and plans fades in comparison with the joy and satisfaction of actually making something. It’s a simple pleasure, the same one that our ancestors felt thousands of years ago when they built their first crude tools. Over the centuries and millennia, man-made physical objects embodied quality. Maybe that’s why I find them beautiful.
Another useless thing ditched: TODO lists. Life’s much simpler now: if something is important and I remember it, I do it; if I don’t remember it, it’s not important enough. The greatest lifehack is not to hack life at all.