Of everything I’ve learned so far in my journey into simplifying and decluttering my life, there’s been one word that has changed everything for me. It’s helped me pursue the things that I value most, cut out the things I don’t, and also create margin in my busy schedule for me to recharge and finally get some sleep.
What is this magical word?
On a not too distant campus…
Dan sits on the floor of his dorm room, looking around himself in wonder. He glances first at the dirty dishes piled on his dresser, then the stacks of books and papers that cover his desk, followed by the comforter and sheets that have slipped to the floor, and finally the shoes and dirty clothes scattered about the room.
But it’s not just his room that’s a mess. It’s midnight, and Dan has a paper due tomorrow morning. He wanted to start it earlier, he really did. But he just hasn’t had time. With all of the commitments that come with being an officer of two clubs, playing a club sport, working a campus job, and taking five classes, he’s been barely getting by with the other work on his plate.
Dan is overwhelmed, sleep deprived, and utterly scattered. Everything’s a mess. He just doesn’t have time to breathe. How did this happen?
‘Talent Is Persistence’ ⇒
Farnam Street, if you’re not familiar with it, is a blog that serves all kinds of articles discussing history, culture, and books. It’s pretty awesome.
Today they posted an excerpt from an interview with filmmaker Kirby Ferguson. It really resonated with me:
What would your advice be to the 20-year-old version of you, who’s just starting their career?
I wish I had Everything Is A Remix when I was younger. I wish I knew that you can just start copying other people’s stuff and fiddling with it, and putting stuff into it, and just sort of build from there. It’s okay to be primitive. That’s a perfectly fine way to start making things.
I wish the earlier me understood work and practice more. Just the repeated concerted effort to get better at things. I wish I didn’t have the notions of talent and genius I had back then. I thought, “Oh, these other people, they just have something that I don’t have.” When really, they are just people who work more.
I wish I understood work. Work is the key to anything you want to do. If you want to play the guitar—anybody can learn to play the fucking guitar—you can be good at it. Maybe you won’t get to be a genius but you could be good.
You can be good enough to write good songs or make a good film or whatever. There’s no such thing as not having enough talent to get to that level. I mean, persistence is talent, really. Just sticking with it. Talent is not stopping.
Take a deep breath. What’s that smell? That’s the smell of a new semester.
It seems like with every new term I am excited and motivated at the onset, but after just a few weeks, I start falling behind with my work. I then begin feeling overwhelmed by my classes, clubs, and work, ultimately becoming disillusioned by everything by finals period.
This semester, I’m trying a new strategy in order to keep myself organized, motivated, and balanced. I developed a mental exercise that prioritizes and organizes my long-term goals, obligations, and self-care into my schedule and into a comprehensive plan for the semester.
This exercise came about when I started thinking more critically about two obstacles I have experienced in college that seems to come up every semester:
I’m not religious, and I don’t feel a desire to be, but there a few elements from religion I wish I had in my life. For example, I wish I had the sense that everything happens for a reason, and the feeling that some higher power is watching out for me. I’ve found that religious individuals feel and display more gratitude in their day-to-day life. And, generally, there’s a scripture, be it a bible or religious text, that one can always turn to for wisdom, guidance, and answers to deep questions.
The last of those strikes me most. I’m specifically captivated by the Christian bible for two reasons. The first is for its function. The bible can be a practical tool, used for daily meditation and reflection. It’s a handbook to life, containing lessons and inspiration to live a good life and be a better person.
‘Going Google-free: Capable Alternatives to Google’s App Suite’ ⇒
With the revelations from the NSA leaks over the last year, I began realizing how much information I had invested in the giant corporate businesses, most of all Google.
Virtually my entire digital life had been contained in the confines of Google’s kingdom — search, email, calendar, phone, social networking, collaboration, maps, language translations, blog analytics, RSS feeds… You name their service, i was probably using it. I don’t have any reason to believe that Google or the government is personally scouring through my data, and it’s not like I have anything to hide either. But knowing that all of the information I have ever uploaded into any of Google’s services, years of data, is accessible within a few mouse clicks creeped me out a bit.
I wrote up an article on Medium talking about different services to replace Google’s app suite. Google makes some fantastic products, but the whole NSA thing and their advertisement-driven business model both leave a bad taste in my mouth. The topic didn’t quite fit the purpose of this blog, so I posted it. Check it out here let me know your thoughts: @RoginFarrer.
Free course on introduction to coding at Harvard ⇒
If you’ve ever wanted to get your hands dirty in coding or computer science, but didn’t know where to start, now is your chance. Harvard’s online program HarvardX is offering a free course CS50x, which teaches the basics of computer programming. New lectures, videos, and assignments are posted weekly, with the option of working through them at your own pace. If completed before the last day of the year, you’re eligible to receive a certificate.
This looks like an incredible opportunity. I’ve signed up myself, and I’m looking forward to getting started. Here’s a snippet about the program from the site itself:
Students who earn a satisfactory score on 9 problem sets (i.e., programming assignments) and a final project will receive a certificate from HarvardX. Students may take CS50x at their own pace.
Email + Evernote + GTD = ‘The Secret Weapon’ ⇒
“The Secret Weapon is a free organizational methodology for both professional and personal aspects of life that re-organizes emails, ideas, and every to-do big and small into one system that stays synchronized across a person’s computers as well as their smart phones.
TSW’s power comes from its ability:
- to merge the best of the GTD concept with the software Evernote, a powerful application that works on Windows and Macs, as well as all smart phones.”
I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t like Evernote all that much, but these series might just convince me otherwise.
‘The Secret Weapon’ is the synthesis of email, Evernote, and GTD into a productivity and life-tracking system. Using the power of tagging, actionable items are indexed and organized into contexts within Evernote. The goal is an empty inbox, improved priority and to-do management, and a clear mind. I’ve been exploring this system for a few days and have found it to be very helpful in keeping track of things.
The video series caters largely to Windows users, showing you how to setup Outlook with Evernote and not Apple Mail. I had some trouble finding a streamlined way to integrate Apple Mail with Evernote, but a couple alternatives are Airmail for Mac and Dispatch for iOS. They both have the ‘Send to Evernote’ feature that they discuss in the video.
Check out ‘The Secret Weapon’ here.
When I was about 13 and my patchy beard had grown too long to ignore, my mother handed me an electric razor and pointed me towards the bathroom. Without really knowing how shaving was supposed to work, I fumbled with that beast for about a year. Once I grew tired of its painful tugging and pulling I threw it in the wastebasket, resolved to find a better way to shave. Or grow a beard.
I tried cartridge razors and disposables, but they were just as unpleasant. They gave me razor burn and inflamed the acne I had like none other. Also those five-blade cartridges are expensive! An 8-pack of Gillette Fusion heads on Amazon cost $25.99 – that’s $3.25 per cartridge!
Then I discovered the double-edged safety razor.
‘Letter to an 18-year-old on the Career Path Less Traveled’ ⇒
- Teach yourself stuff. The Internet has anything you want to learn, from writing to 3D animation to programming to carpentry to guitar. Never stop learning.
- Figure out what you’re passionate about. This isn’t easy, because it takes a lot of trial and error. Try a lot of things. When you get good at something, by the way, you’ll like it much more. You’ll suck at everything at first.
- Explore the world. You can travel very cheaply if you need little. Meet new people. Learn languages. Work odd jobs.
Leo’s advice applies to anyone going out into the world, college or otherwise. Teach yourself things you don’t learn in class. Take a diversity of classes (if you can). Try everything.