A Few Things: What I (Re-)Learnt in 2024, Planning The Year Ahead, Four Thousand Weeks.....
December 29, 2023
I am sharing this weekly email with you because I count you in the group of people I learn from and enjoy being around.
This will be 2023’s last “A Few Things”. I wanted to particularly thank the members of our Brain Trust. Thank you for being early believers.
Some Of My Favourite Quotes Of The Year:
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
"Change is never painful, only the resistance to change is painful."
“Once we realise that imperfect understanding is the human condition there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.”
- George Soros
“It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘Try to be a little kinder.’”
- Aldous Huxley on his death bed
"If you only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.”
“Sometimes the most important things in a man's life are the one's he talks about the least.”
- Louis L'Amour
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement… get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
- Rabbi Heschel
“The more you seek the uncomfortable, the more comfortable you will become.”
- Conor McGregor
“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it's impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”
- Niccolo Machiavelli
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”
- Joseph Campbell
“Always do what you are afraid to do”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
- Bruce Lee
A. What I (Re-)Learnt This Year
Another year comes to a close and I try to reflect back on what I’ve learnt, firstly I have to look back and smile at just how stupid I was last year.
Secondly, it is always the hard times where the learning and growth happened and every life has some of it.
Summarising the lessons of the last few year in to Three Points:
1) Hedonic Adaptation is Real: nothing is as big a deal as you think it is at the time. Angry or sad emotions from life traumas fade, but so will the positive surprises from one-time life upgrades. What’s left is just you.
Remember: This Too Shall Pass. Be happy with who and what you have today. The present is all there is.
2) Habits Are The Only Things That Matter: most of your day & life is comprised of repeating the same set of behaviours over and over. The way you get up, your thoughts. Your job. The way you interact with other people. The way you eat and exercise.
Unless you give all of this a lot of mindful attention and work to adjust it, it stays the same, which means your life barely changes, which means your level of happiness barely changes.
This is something I am trying to work on, because as I get older I find myself become a creature of habits - some good, some bad.
3) To Change Your Life, Change Your Habits: The easiest and best way to have a happier and more satisfying life is to figure out what ingredients go into a happier life, a more successful career or just perfect day, and start adding those things while subtracting the things that create the inverse.
For me the perfect day includes: positive social interactions where I learn something new, helping people, outdoor physical activity, making or doing something new (however small), problem solving and time with my family.
B. Planning The Year Ahead
How was your 2023?
I try to use December and January for thinking about the year that has gone by and planning the next.
I’ve found reflecting and planning to be a useful exercise, not because things go according to plan, but because thinking about what you really want and how you are going to get there is a useful exercise.... or as President & General Eisenhower said:
1) Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
2) Plans are worthless, but planning is essential.
There are probably two career planning texts that are powerful and worth reading multiple times (I have) and they help guide me.
The 3 lessons that really resonated with me:
Network intensely. Luck plays a big role in life, and there is no better way to increase your luck than by knowing as many people as possible. Nurture your network by sending articles, books and emails to people to show you’re thinking about them. Write op-eds and thought pieces for major publications. Organize discussion groups to bring your thoughtful friends together.
When you meet someone new, treat that person as a friend. Assume he or she is a winner and will become a positive force in your life. Most people wait for others to prove their value. Give them the benefit of the doubt from the start. Occasionally you will be disappointed, but your network will broaden rapidly if you follow this path.
Read all the time. Don’t just do it because you’re curious about something, read actively. Have a point of view before you start a book or article and see if what you think is confirmed or refuted by the author. If you do that, you will read faster and comprehend more.
Here are 3 parts that resonated with me:
Compound Yourself....You don't want to be in a career where people who have been doing it for two years can be as effective as people who have been doing it for twenty—your rate of learning should always be high. As your career progresses, each unit of work you do should generate more and more results. There are many ways to get this leverage, such as capital, technology, brand, network effects, and managing people....Trust the exponential, be patient, and be pleasantly surprised.
Focus......Almost everyone I’ve ever met would be well-served by spending more time thinking about what to focus on. It is much more important to work on the right thing than it is to work many hours. Most people waste most of their time on stuff that doesn’t matter.
Be hard to compete with....The best way to become difficult to compete with is to build up leverage. For example, you can do it with personal relationships, by building a strong personal brand, or by getting good at the intersection of multiple different fields. There are many other strategies, but you have to figure out some way to do it.
What are your goals for 2024?
C. Four Thousand Weeks
An average human only gets about 4,000 weeks of life on Earth (4,000 / 52 = 77). It seems so tiny laid out like that, and many of us are more than half way through it.
How do we make the most of it?
There are probably 3-4 books over the last ten years that have really slapped me around and changed how I looked at my life.
Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman is one of them.
There are a few big ideas in this book:
The Efficiency Culture:
We live in efficiency culture, where it’s about doing more and more things. But as we rush to tick things off our to-do list, we are actually doing each thing in a very cursory way. Each task becomes small, irrelevant and something we are just trying to get done to move to the next thing.
None of the actual tasks matter. Only the next task matters. So if nothing that you are really doing matters then does your life really matter?
You Get The Life You Choose:
To give our life meaning, we must choose what stuff will mean to us. We have to choose what we will sacrifice our life for. No choices mean more tedious things will find their way into your life.
Make the choices of what you will do and what you will not do. Commit to what matters to you. And agree to miss out on certain things. Use time rather than let time use you.
His thesis is that we run from tasks to tasks because we don’t actually want to decide what we want to do with our life.
He has a great story about writing down a list of 25 things you want to do with your life. It’s possible many of you have done this exercise. Warren Buffett has talked about it as punch card investing.
Oliver’s thesis is that when you select the top 5 things you are going to do with your life, the problem to watch out for is the other 20, because they are what will take you away from the top 5. The top 20 are dangerous to you achieving the top 5.
All Life is Borrowed Time:
Being busy with stuff is a way to forget our finitude. We don’t have to choose if we don’t ever take a time to think about it. But to live a good life we must choose.
Be in the moment.
We are always preparing, thinking about the future. It’s always about what’s next, what’s in the future. It’s never about being here today. There is no perfect tomorrow. So be here. Today is all that really exists. The rest is just in your head.
“To rest for the sake of rest—to enjoy a lazy hour for its own sake—entails first accepting the fact that this is it: that your days aren’t progressing toward a future state of perfectly invulnerable happiness, and that to approach them with such an assumption is systematically to drain our four thousand weeks of their value. ‘We are the sum of all the moments of our lives,’ writes Thomas Wolfe, ‘all that is ours is in them: we cannot escape it or conceal it.’ If we’re going to show up for, and thus find some enjoyment in, our brief time on the planet, we had better show up for it now.”
- Oliver Burkeman (“Four Thousand Weeks”)
I wish you great happiness and success in the years ahead. Thank you for your friendship.
Believe it or not, that “♡ Like” button is a big deal – it serves as a proxy to new visitors of this publication’s value. If you got value out of reading, please let others know!
Let’s make 2024 a year of massive action.
"Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer.
Put your principles into practice – now. Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life! You aren’t a child anymore. The sooner you set yourself to your spiritual program, the happier you will be. The longer you wait, the more you’ll be vulnerable to mediocrity and feel filled with shame and regret, because you know you are capable of better.
From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now."