Monthly Archives: August 2013

A hundred things

cassettesA friend recently reminded me about the 100 things idea of owning 100, or fewer, things. The underlying concept is pursuing minimalism and making your life easier by being simpler.

I think the processes is more important than the goal of owning 100 things. Whittling down your stuff to 100 things could get stressful if you let it turn into a competition or you’re too concerned about hitting the number. Owning 100 things is an interesting exercise that most people living in prosperous economies don’t want to follow. But ultimately, the idea is more important than the number because striving to own less  works as a check against consumerist urges. So it’s the philosophy, not an arbitrary limit of 100, that’s valuable. Think about it as owning a smaller lawn instead of worrying about how many blades of grass there are.

Is there a precedent for owning less? Probably. Since at least 1974, anthropology has  suggested that many hunter gather societies were the original affluent societies. Sharing and co-operation enabled their cultures to flourish. For example, if you worked hard making a canoe, fished successfully, and then shared your catch with your tribe mates, you could relax for a few days doing cultural things, like storytelling, while others did the fishing.

Once our consumer civilization arrived, status based on accumulating stuff started picking up speed. We’re often burdened by stuff that needs carrying, storing, and protecting. Our ancient ancestors didn’t share our concept of valuing surpluses they didn’t need at the moment. They’d get what they needed when they needed it, if they could, and then enjoy it until it was time to get some more. It’d be called a “poverty mentality” in our affluent society.

Somewhere between a poverty mentality and an excessive accumulation mentality lies a sweet spot that lets us have more by having less. Putting a number like 100 on it is just arbitrary and fun but the process is what’s important.

Everybody loves “free”

Global_saver-980x580Amazon has announced they’re now offering free shipping to India and Singapore.

Their shipping offer isn’t a gimmick or a bait and switch deal. Sure, there’re some restrictions, like a $125 minimum, shipping weight under 20 pounds, etc. But all the restrictions I read about on the Amazon site were reasonable.

I’m guessing more countries will be added. Everybody loves the word “free” in front of something they want, even if it’s just shipping costs. Commerce is doing its best to build good neighbors through trading.

Our world continues to get smaller by being more intertwined, which is probably good for relations between both people and nations.

Want really fast food?

contentThere’s a crowd funded startup company that’s close to releasing a meal replacement food.  It’s for more than just replacing a meal, or a product for adding  extra calories to your daily intake. Those things are already on the shelves. This is really an eating replacement product. No cooking, less expensive, just mix with water, and drink it. That’s it. Conceivably forever.

To me, it’s like the bottled blood replacement for vampires called true blood  on the show, “True Blood.” The vampires never have to hassle with biting humans again.

The product is called Soylent. It claims to have all the nutrients you’ll need in a powder  you mix with water. The company is even planning on providing you a nalgene bottle to shake it up in and drink from. And you can it take on the go. No dishes,  just rinse out your bottle.

There’s a writer who tried it for two weeks. His longish diary and comments are on Tim Ferriss’ blog. If you don’t want to slog  through a mono drink diary, I did it and basically he had a good overall experience drinking only Soylent for two weeks.

If you’re super busy it makes sense. When there’s nothing  else around to eat because of famine or natural disaster I get it.

But what’s the “why” in the extended, long term use of Soylent? What situation are you in that’s making you think an eating replacement plan is something you’d do and enjoy long term? Once you reach some future  goal, will you then step off the treadmill move to a slower, simpler life where you eat and drink regular food? Probably.

I’m for being efficient, streamlined, and optimized but quaility of life trumps those goals for most people.

As a short term or occasional solution, I get it. But when it’s presented as a long term eating replacement activity, it’s kinda like saying sexting with your smart phone is all you need when it comes to sex.

Are lots of impressions working?

dog faceFirst impressions are important.

So people tend to put their best representation on the internet when posting a picture of themselves. Often it’s an old picture or one that’s not representative of how they actually look now. My guess is that it ultimately catches up with those people, damaging the trust others have in them.

But what’s the impression people who post lots of pictures of themselves make?

An easy and supposedly more flattering self-photo trick is taking the picture  looking up at the camera while holding it an arm’s length away.  If you don’t take these, you might not know what they’re called. They’re one form of a “selfie” photo, “a genre of self-portrait  photographs, typically taken either with a camera held at arm’s length or in a mirror,” according to Wikipedia.

Selfies became a  buzzword last year after some celebrities began excessively posting self portraits. Some regular people often emulate those they look up to, begging two questions: Are you using selfies a lot on social media? And how’s that working for you?

The results of a study conducted on 508 selfie snappers and how their pics influenced  relationships with their friends on Facebook and other social networks  showed that lots of selfies makes almost everyone like you less. The exceptions are a very close friend or  relative, and they could be lying.

Sometimes, there’s too much sharing on the internet.

The Power of No

Venn HellThe power of “no” helps us to  make time available for the work we need to do in the arts, business, or life.

Here’s my summary of an article by Kevin Ashton called “Creative People Say No” about why creatives need to say no.

“No” guards time, but we’re taught not to say “no”  because it’s a rebuff.  But what does a “yes” cost?  A sketch? A stanza? A paragraph? An experiment? Twenty lines of code?  

When famous creators were asked to be interviewed for a book by a psychology professor, a third of the 275 creative people contacted said “no” due to a lack of time, and another third said nothing. An author’s secretary replied that, “(he) remains creative… at least in part, because he doesn’t allow himself to be a part of other people’s studies.” Another secretary responded, “… the very reason you wish to study his creative process is also the reason why he (unfortunately) doesn’t have time to help you…”

Creating consumes time. Remove the magic and myth of creating and what remains is: finding solutions,  trial and error,  thinking and perfecting. No matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There’re few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes.

We don’t have enough time as it is, there’re groceries to buy, gas tanks to fill, families to love and day jobs to do. People who create know this. They know the world is all strangers with candy who need to be told no. 

Business people need and have to say “no” too. Can you make a good deal with a bad person? I don’t think so. Neither does Warren Buffett who says, “We only want to link up with people whom we like, admire, and trust. … We don’t wish to join with managers who lack admirable qualities, no matter how attractive the prospects of their business. We’ve never succeeded in making a good deal with a bad person.”

And if it does succeed it’ll take a lot more of your time and effort. Best to just say no.

Of the attributes of “like, admire, and trust” that Buffet mentioned, I’d say it’s really about trust, the most important attribute of the three. It’s been said that you are your brand and you have to maintain the trust others have in your brand. Otherwise, you won’t be able to do much with it because you’ll likely get lots of “no”s.

Time is the most precious thing we have and there’s nothing we can do to slow its marching along. But using the power of “no” lets us use a limited resource in the way we need to not how someone else would prefer we use it. Saying no isn’t easy to do, but the power of “no” is often the best answer.



The 300th post

300th empty cooffee cupThis my 300th post! There’s nothing particularly important about 300, I just like the sound of it.

There’re bloggers with many more posts and lots of bloggers with many fewer posts. It’s not a contest, but  I’m still proud to have written 300 posts.

Usually the hardest part, as others have found too, is the sitting down to start writing part. Actually writing is easier and fun.

It’s handy, downloading ideas from my brain to the page, because it somehow frees up my mind for  other thoughts. Of course, writing in a public spot like a blog makes pieces of you available to anyone wanting to have a look. I never know whether people love what I have to say, hate it, or wind up feeling nothing. That’s okay because I can’t please everyone and the readers who like it are the ones I’m writing for anyway.

Thanks for reading.

Who is Mr. Money Mustashe?

simplicityOkay, I don’t know what’s up with the Mr. Money Mustashe name. So let’s put that aside for now.

What’s important is content. And the Mr. Money Mustache site has lots of good content  enabling and encouraging anyone to  attain financial freedom sooner than most Americans think is possible.

It’s a fast, hardcore track to financial freedom. He’s done it and is still retired seven years later.

Other than being sort of retired in their thirties, the Mustashes live a normal life with their kid in a midsized city in Colorado. They both had normal salaries and no big financial windfalls, like buy-outs or winning the lottery. What they did was shift their focus to happiness rather than seeking conveniences and luxuries pushed by ads and popular culture, and saved like crazy.

In a nutshell, what he and his wife did was this. They spent much less than they earned, avoided debt, and saved more than 50% of what they made. Then, when they’d saved 25 times their annual spending they quit the rat race.

The site has more than 300 posts and is easy to navigate. Over the years,  I’ve done many of the things they recommend, so I know they work. Most are simple. Live close to work. Never borrow money to buy a car.  Pay off your house. And invest in stock market index funds. Not sexy, but very effective.

Mr. Money Mustashe  isn’t the first person to implement these ideas and says so. For instance, he recommends, “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominguez. I read it years ago and found it validating and empowering. It’s about what you value. Look at where your money’s  going, and if you find you spend $55 a month at a coffee shop on cappuccinos but you get $55 or more of enjoyment and satisfaction from spending that, then carry on.

The nuts and bolts, and the tools, are all there to get to financial freedom, but the first step is an attitude transformation taking your perception of happiness away from where ads are trying to convince you to look.


real-loveMy contact lens are two different prescriptions. The right eye’s contact corrects for distance while the left contact takes care of seeing nearer objects. These two inputs must be sorted out and coordinated by my brain.

A “monogamish” arrangement in a relationship refers to a less rigid form of monogamy. The argument presents two different inputs for your brain, and goes like this:

First, men and women evolved long ago, before civilization arose, to naturally be interested in partners outside of their primary relationship. Whether or not they act on that interest, the interest will still be there.

Next, on the civilized societal level, absolute monogamy is presented as the pinnacle of achievement for relationship.

When these two different templates intersect, the result is high levels of infidelity, mistrust, and very often divorce. We see it all the time. Monogamy in our society is assumed to trump love, the family, and the time spent building a life together.

Some people are suggesting that the focus on absolute fidelity in long-term relationships should be shifted more towards emphasizing cooperation, an acceptance of our nature, and relationship longevity. An understanding that human nature fits better by using a monogamish perspective.

One instigator is Chris Ryan, PhD who, with his coauthor, wrote “Sex at Dawn,” that explores monogamy and human sexuality through the lens of psychology, anthropology, and primatology. It’s an easy  read and interesting. Here he is in a 4 minute video discussing some of the insights they present in their book. Another voice is columnist Dan Savage. Here he is taking a run at the subject in a 3 minute video. Good stuff.

Chris Ryan often gets asked what should people do with the information. But people cover a broad spectrum of personal desires and needs, so monogamy might be fine for one person, or an occasional hallpass from monogamy for another, while a few brave people might be able to handle an open relationship. Everybody’s different. “Sex at Dawn” and the discussion provide a flashlight to help see what’s going on, but it doesn’t and probably can’t provide a map for relationship behavior. It’s like my contacts, your brain has to figure out what to do with the info coming in.

Apparently lots of people naturally are also curious about how Chris Ryan and his wife handle monogamy. His answer is that “Our relationship is informed by our research.” Very diplomatic answer.



Paying for the NYT

Big city man in skyI like the New York Times but I’ve never subscribed to, or liked reading newspapers. They always seemed to be “yesterday’s news and dirty fingers,” plus a newspaper’s format is awkward to use. Even my favorite, the NYT.

I’ve been reading the NYT online since they began their online edition. Non subscribers can read 10 articles a month for free. Most of the time, by just scanning the landing page, I get a lot from the headlines and accompanying lead-in sentences. If I want to access an article after the tenth one, I google the article and read it that way.

Then the other night I watched a documentary called PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES. It gave me a greater appreciation of what they do and the depth of the NYT departments and their commitment to news and information. You really do get an inside peek at what goes on internally at the paper. And the documentary also highlights how they’re trying to keep up with the changes brought on by the internet. But the most striking revelation is the drying up of their revenue streams. The NYT could go out of business.

A friend who’d just watched the movie said out loud what I’d been thinking after seeing the documentary, “You know the first place I get my news everyday is the NYT and after watching that movie I feel like I want to support the Times by paying for a subscription. “Yeah, me too.” I said.

I’m used to the free model most of us encounter on the internet, but in this case I think it’ll be worth supporting in-depth journalism to keep it going. I have to switch before the organization breaks down. Maybe I’ll like paying because I’ll be a customer not a window shopper.