Retreats

Is it worth it to go on a meditation retreat?

Why pay for something that you can do for free?

Well, I think for me, the social obligation is a huge factor.

The more people around you do something, the more you feel pressured to do it.

I’m not saying that social pressure is a good or bad thing. I just think most of us have a natural inclination to follow the herd.

The funny thing is, that I remember doing one before. And I loved the feeling afterwards. Even though it was just two short days, I felt a serene sense of peace and calm. How long did that last? I can’t remember really. But I probably jumped back into my regular routine without much thought.

I do remember getting very restless while on the retreat. But then again, I was at a different point in my life. In terms of my current relationships and career path, I feel much more stable and relaxed.

But why spend that much money when you could very well do this on your own?

I don’t know man, I don’t think I can bring myself to do it.

To be honest, that much meditation seems excessive. Excessive!!!

But…I could really benefit from the sense of calm, couldn’t I?

On one hand, it feels like a waste of time. But on the other hand, what the hell else would I be doing?

It’s a good time to go, and could really have a positive impact on my life.

Well, at least sleep on it.

I do have a tendency to impulsively spend large amounts of money without thinking things through.

Sometimes that quick dopamine hit that comes with a purchase is worth the reduction in anxiety.

I want to do this, I really do. But something is holding me back. Fear? What is this feeling, what is this feeling?

Honestly I can’t tell if this is fear holding me back from something that could help me, or it’s another feeling warning me to avoid this altogether.

Sleep on it, sleep on it!!

I think this could be like a spa for my soul. A chance for a weekend without laptops or TV. A chance to relax with yourself, and reevaluate your priorities in life.

Aimless

I feel like a jack of all trades, but master of none.

I float around from one thing to another, letting my curiosity drag me in to widely different directions.

But why can’t I focus on one things and follow through on it?

Maybe because choosing one things would mean turning your back on all the rest, and you’re scared of that kind of commitment.

Maybe because if you never really choose a path, then you protect yourself from the possibility of failure.

Mastery can take years of hard work before you see results.

But I’m just bouncing around from one thing to the next, never fully diving into anything.

I think it’s easier to transition from one field of mastery to another field, rather than go deep after going wide in different areas.

I guess coding is one thing I’ve committed to. And I’m grateful for that.

It was a long journey to get where I’m at (and there’s still so much room for growth).

It took a long time for me to develop enough confidence to transition into this career.

I often tried learning coding skills on the side, usually while working in some unfulfilling job.

But it occurred to me - why not try getting paid to learn something that you want to learn anyway?

In this kind of technical role - you may never really feel 100% prepared. Things change so rapidly, and there are always new topics to learn.

So I stepped up to the challenge, and I’m happy with where I ended up.

I work around 40 hours per week, and those hours are largely dedicated to developing my skills. Even when I’m not working on projects, I will practice coding problems or watch tutorials in my downtime. I have committed to this career, and it will pay dividends down the line.

Habit

It’s scary how easily we cling to habits. We find them comforting and easy.

Life is more simple when you don’t have to think about where to go eat or grab coffee.

How many of us would life in the Truman world universe and never seek an escape.

But we never grow if we remain in a familiar environment.

That’s try travel is so important. Especially when it’s somewhere completely different than your home.

It can be unsettling and difficult. People find it jarring to experience a reality so unlike the one they are used to.

But it’s healthy. We all need a change of scenery from time to time. If you stick to what you’ve always known, then you’ll never grow.

Working

Recently I heard someone asking for advice about how to finish more books. They enjoy reading, but for some reason can’t get around to picking up one of the many books on their list.

The problem was that this individual was paralyzed from starting a new book, because that would mean turning her back on all the other books.

They key here is prioritization.

You cannot effectively tackle your goals until you establish what is most important. Otherwise, they will linger over you and weigh on your psyche.

It’s a simple as this: pick and thing to do and do it. No life hacks, no shortcuts, no quick fixes. Decide what you want to do and do it.

Neediness

Neediness is unattractive, because we are programmed to find it repelling.

We all have mental, emotional, psychological, and physical needs. It is our evolutionary quest to strive towards fulfillment of these needs.

But being needy means you expect others to meet your needs. You become a burden.

Of course, it’s important to define neediness, and delineate it from other phenomena.

Being physically disabled and requiring care is not neediness - it is a reality.

Expecting someone to validate you and and affirm your self-esteem is neediness.

Yes, relationships sometimes mean making sacrifices for others. But it has to be within reason.

When you start inhibiting your partner/friend/family member from meeting their own needs, then it becomes a problem.

It’s not selfish to care for yourself. If you neglect your own health (mental, emotional, psychological, physical) then the people around you will not get the best version of you. So really, it is in their best interest to give you the space and freedom to meet your needs.

Family

Family is this foundation on which we build our identity.

When we lack strong family connections, our foundation will be less stable.

We were brought into this world with very little awareness about who we are or where we came from.

But we are the winners of evolution…descendants of a long line of survivors who managed to pass on their genes.

So I think it’s important to make the effort to get to your family. And not just your immediate family, but your aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.

Sites like ancestry.com always felt a little gimmicky to me. And maybe they are. But it still might be worth the time, effort, and price to get on their and find out about your ancestors.

I think much of our modern existential angst can be traced back to a feeling of disconnection. We don’t know where we fit in to this great cosmos.

Think about the bright smiles on people’s faces when they talk about their recent DNA test. How fun it is to find out you’ve got Viking blood in your veins.

We study history in schools, but most of us rarely take the time to reflect on our own personal history.

Journaling

Journaling is a wonderful thing.

To me, it feels like a form of self-therapy. Transcribing feelings into words forces me to confront reality more objectively.

Once you put what’s on your mind out there, it suddenly doesn’t feel so intensely personal.

Part of me is worried about looking back at previous entries and cringing.

Something I wrote even a week ago might embarrass me today.

But such is the nature of our ever-evolving mind. If I look back at what I was thinking and don’t cringe, maybe that’s a sign that I’m not growing enough.

One major theme that seems to come up in these entries is self-actualization…how to reach one’s potential.

Despite my ongoing idealistic ramblings, I still feel like I’m falling woefully short of who I could be.

Maybe I need a clearer vision of who I want to be. After all, how can you strive towards a goal if you don’t know what it looks like?

I think many people will spend years in a dead-end job or bad situation, simply because they didn’t take the time to reflect on where they wanted to go in life.

So why don’t more of us take the time to think about it?

Maybe to think in this way is hard, because it means admitting our discontent. It means being honest with ourselves about how we’re not really happy with where we are in life.

To some extent, I think discontent is an evolutionary driver, pushing us to always seek more and more (to ensure our survival and reproduction).

Maybe I should get back into meditation and focusing on life in the present moment.

There is something incredibly relaxing about slowing down and appreciating the ‘here and now’.

At the same time, I worry that a life of extreme contentment would be lazy and unproductive.

So once again, as in so many of these entries, I will come to conclude that there is a healthy balance to strike.

You can try living mindfully in the present moment, while still striving ambitiously towards your personal goals.

Are these two approaches to life at odds? Can they be reconciled? Maybe, maybe not. But I don’t think I’m doing a great job of living mindfully or living purposefully at the moment…so it’s time to make a conscious effort to live better.

Happy

What makes you happy? You might have a quick answer, as a few obvious things come to mind. Good food, spending time with friends, and so on.

But what about the little things? Maybe we can call these micro-joys (or something like that, still thinking it over…)

What are the tiny things that make your day? I once watched an Australian Shepherd dog for a couple days for someone who was out of town. When she was happy, her entire body would wiggle. It brought a huge smile to my face! (I think that’s why so many people love dogs…is because the littlest things can make them ecstatic, and that positive energy rubs off on us).

So the reason for writing this post is to bring more awareness to my micro-joys. By having a greater understanding of the little things that make me happy, I can make a more focused effort to incorporate these things into my life.

So here’s a rough list, off the top of my head:

  • Petting a cute dog

  • Hanging out in a coffee shop

  • Writing code for interactive applications

  • Coming up with new entrepreneurial ideas

  • Learning something new

  • Going to talks where people share something they’re passionate about

  • Playing games with friends

  • Traveling somewhere new

  • Taking a walk in nature

  • Going to the zoo

  • Going to museums

  • Rooting for a sports team

Shuffle

I think it’s good to shuffle things around…to mix things up.

Why do we cling to routines so stubbornly?

I noticed in college lectures with unassigned seats, how people would inevitably gravitate to the same chairs each class.

We crave predictability. The unknown is frightening to us. Surely there’s an evolutionary reason for this. It’s safer to stick what you know, rather than take an unnecessary risk.

But we should push past this limiting tendency. We should force ourselves to experience new things from time to time.

Travel is a great way to get out of our comfort zones. But even then, some people will only visit tourist traps and the same sites that a million others have been to a million times.

Live it up, mix it up, say yes, blah blah blah.

Discontent

Is it human to be discontent?

It feels like a hallmark of evolution to never be completely satisfied with what you have.

Or to what extent is happiness a cultural construct?

I’ve read studies of people in countries like Nigeria and Thailand, who lack material wealth but seem to live happy lives despite this.

Is happiness even a good thing to pursue?

If I were too happy, maybe I’d become lazy and lose motivation.

I think we need conflict in our lives to overcome. We need something either to strive towards or resist against.

Think about almost every work of fiction.

If there were no conflict, then there would be no story.

Even if there is a lack of external conflict, then a character could still have an internal conflict.

It seems like those with seemingly perfect lives: rich teenagers or celebrities, will tend to create their own drama just for the sake of it.

How much conflict is stirred up just for the sake of it? Just because it gives us something to do, or something to rail against?

These are just some thoughts… a stream-of-consciousness ramble.

I think that in order to have a more well-rounded opinion of happiness and similar topics, I’d need to:

  • Interact with more people and get their perspectives

  • Travel more

  • Have more life experience in general.

It’s easy to get stuck in your own way of thinking if you’re never challenged or exposed to new ideas.

So you need to make a conscious effort to get out of your head and get to know what others are thinking.

When you are exposed to the ideas of others, you’re forced to confront and defend your own beliefs/opinions.

I think that highlights the problem with many high-status individuals: people stop challenging their outlook over time.

Michael Lewis recently mentioned this in an interview. He has written several successful books…and now he’s afraid that his editor or those close to him won’t be honest in telling him if he has a bad idea.

So I think it’s good to remain skeptical of your own thoughts. Skepticism, exposure, and experience…this is the recipe for a more developed outlook on life.

Rich

The comedian Daniel Tosh once had a bit about the whole “Money can’t buy happiness” belief.

He challenged the audience, “have you ever seen a sad person on a WaveRunner?” Money can buy a WaveRunner, and WaveRunners make people happy, so maybe we should question that classic adage.

One issue with money is that I think it breeds jealousy. If you have a lot, then people might feel bad about themselves being around you because they don’t feel much. I know that I’ve felt insecure around successful people, because their success forces me to confront my own shortcomings.

I’d like to be rich, I’d like to have enough money that I could do whatever I wanted. I don’t think I’d live an extremely lavish lifestyle. Maybe I’d buy a Tesla and travel more, that sort of thing.

It would just be nice to have enough money that little things don’t concern you. A raise in rent, a spike in gas prices, a cold-brew coffee on a hot summer day. These expenses can take a toll if you’re living on a budget.

I should see money as a problem to be solved. I shouldn’t be scared of money, I should be strategic. What are my strengths, and how could I use them to get more?

At the same time, I must question: how could the pursuit of wealth affect my relationships and overall well-being?

I could work 80 hours a week and make a lot of cash, but this would not make me happy. I’d have no time to spend doing what I wanted. I’d be tired, stressed out, and overwhelmed.

I wonder how my life would change if I won the lottery. Would I really stop working and just be lazy?

I don’t think so, I think I need the structure and stability of a regular job. I like to feel productive, and to feel like I contribute to something larger than myself.

So these are universal human needs, right? Meaning, relationships, stability…

To what extent can you satisfy your basic needs with money?

It probably won’t take that much. But I’d like to be able to buy the latest gadget or whatever piques my curiosity.

So money equals freedom: freedom to do what you want, when you want to.

But money can also breed problems: jealousy, laziness, indulgence, etc.

In general, like most things in life, I think it’s all about finding a balance.

Community

One recurring topic in my essays is community.

It is something to which I keep returning. But for how much time I spend thinking about it, there is very little in my life.

Maybe that’s why it’s so often on my mind. Our imaginations tend to run rampant for anything we find to be lacking in our lives.

When you seek advice for “finding your tribe”, it is often tinged with frivolous platitudes such as “join a club, find a group, start a meetup…”

Is it really that simple? Maybe it is. Maybe if I spend less time in my mind and more time in the real world, then I’d have more to show for it.

But to my credit, I have attended quite a few gatherings. I’ve volunteered, joined organizations, even started my own club.

Maybe I should focus more on strengthening existing relationships rather than seeking out new ones.

How much quality time do I really spend with my friends, family, and work colleagues?

Sometimes I feel like those close to me could make a better effort as well. But you can only control your actions. And it’s easy to cast blame on others for not keeping in touch or staying close. At the end of the day, I think the lyrics “the love you take is equal to the love you make” rings true.

Thanks Beatles for helping me to internalize that.

Angst

“Every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam".

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Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the vastness of life. I won’t pretend like existential angst is unique to my situation. I think we all catch that fleeting sense of dread from time to time. To cope, I usually drown myself in distractions. Instead of confronting your feelings and learning how to cope, it’s easier to shift your attention to any other topic.

Over the years, I’ve turned to the Stoics, Existentialists, and Self-Help gurus. But maybe nobody has it figured out. Instead of living to search for answers, maybe I should focus more of living for the sake of living.

Learning

“Learning is an active process. We learn by doing…Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind.” - Dale Carnegie

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Our world is in a constant state of change. Keeping our skills up to date is an ongoing struggle. The best way to learn, I believe, is to learn by doing.

Reading a textbook or watching a lecture are passive ways of taking in information. When we learn by doing, we are engaged. Learning hands on helps us internalize material. We aren’t just consuming information…we are taking action.

Another key factor is motivation. If we choose to learn by doing, then we will be more motivated. We have the freedom and autonomy to pursue any project we wish. Rather than have a textbook or teacher tell you what to do, you can choose what to work on.

Of course, there is a balance to strike here. You need to maintain an attitude of humility when consuming new information. Maintain a beginner’s mindset. You can’t learn if your mind is closed.

Don’t ignore the experts and what they have to offer. Use their knowledge a guide for reference and direction.

But take control of your education and pursue projects that energize and inspire you. Learning doesn’t have to be a painful, draining task. It should be active, engaging, and hands-on.

Side-Hustle

“Good things happen to those who hustle” - Anais Nin

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A concept called “side-hustle” has recently entered mainstream culture.

What is a side-hustle? It can mean different things to different people, but the general idea is that it involves some form of work outside of your normal job.

It can be a way to supplement your income. It can be a way to find meaning in your work. It can be a way to use your hobbies to turn a profit.

Everyone could benefit from a side-hustle. Traditional jobs seem unfulfilling for the majority of people. A side-hustle gives us the opportunity to have autonomy, passion, and inspiration in our work.

Pillars

 “We can afford to do things that fail, but we can’t afford to do things that if they succeed, they’re small.” - Jeff Bezos

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Jeff Bezos talks about how there are pillars that serve as the foundation for Amazon’s business model.

These include Amazon Prime, Amazon Web Services, and Amazon’s third-party marketplace.

In interviews, Bezos often mentions how long-term thinking was the basis behind many of his decisions. He wanted to bet on things that would not change. People will always want faster shipping times and lower prices, for example.

Amazon’s diversification and focus on the future have made it the most valuable public company in the world.

It makes me wonder how we Bezos’ thinking might translate into our own lives.

What are the pillars on which you build your life?

These could be the hobbies, interests, relationships, jobs, etc. that shape who you are as a person.

The stronger these pillars are, the more stable our foundation will be. And the more diverse these pillars are, the higher the probability is that they would not all crumble together in the face of challenges.

So for a concrete example, think about it like this:

You enjoy writing, podcasting, producing music, cooking, and coding.

Some of these things are hobbies or interests, and others you use in your career.

But these shape your identity. So I think it’s important to define your pillars, and then invest the time and energy to make sure they are strong.

Instead of trying to do everything, focus on these pillars. Take the classes, find the mentors, put in the work.

Be honest with yourself about what you’re good at and what you want to do.

You can take chances on things. You can do things for fun. But if you want to achieve some level of success in certain areas, then define those areas and build your life around them.

Because it’s when your skills get results that you feel proud and confident. So say you have those interests (writing, podcasting, producing music, cooking, and coding). Maybe you get fired from your job as a writer, but you can pivot to a career in coding because that was something you were investing time in on the side.

The general point is that life inevitably has its ups and downs. But the stronger and more diverse our pillars are, the more stable our lives will be.

You have to find that balance between pursuing many things and too few things (diversity). And you have to find the balance between investing some time and not enough time (strength).

So first take inventory: define the pillars in your life. Then strengthen and diversify your pillars to ensure a stable and successful future.

Variety

“Variety is the spice of life, that gives it all its flavor” - William Cowper

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I recently became interested in cooking, after years of takeout food and instant meals.

Perhaps it’s a passing interest…a temporary passion that comes and goes as they so often do in my life.

But something tells me this one might just stick.

After surviving a few underwhelming meals, I’ve gotten into a groove with this intricate art.

I never really appreciated how many elements are involved with what we eat. Herbs, spices, texture, flavor…everything combining in wonderful ways to bring joy and happiness to your taste buds.

Cooking is such an alluring thing to me, because it is a world of infinite possibilities. You could make something completely unique, adding your own personal touch to it.

Every day is an opportunity to create something new.

Being able to cook well feels like it would be a superpower. You can think something up and create it.

Pillars

“It's all about quality of life and finding a happy balance between work and friends and family.” - Philip Green

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In order to feel stable, we need pillars to support us. These pillars could take many forms, but the most straightforward ones are Friends, Family, Work, and Significant Other.

These pillars aren’t guaranteed at the same time, if at all. We lose family members, friends grow apart, work gets old, and we fight with our romantic partners.

If one or two of these pillars are crumbling, then we still have a solid enough foundation to function. But when all of our relationships are suffering, it can be devastating.

So how do we reinforce these pillars? How do we strengthen the foundation that maintains our sanity? Too often, we neglect these key relationships and suffer the consequences down the line.

Maybe the answer is simple. Make the effort to keep in touch with those who matter to you. Ask how your old friends are doing. Se

One of the most powerful films, It’s a Wonderful Life, does a great job of highlighting the importance of relationships. Towards the end, when the main character faces a crisis, he contemplates suicide to end it all. But his family and friends help come to the rescue and save him from these depths.

When you are kind to others and make the effort to keep up with relationships, you build up good will over the years. Is this selfish? Perhaps. But it seems all relationships have an element of sacrifice. We take time to see others, to hear about their days, to help them out when they need help. Then when it’s your turn to ask for a favor, there will be people around.

It would be a lonely day to wake up and realize you have nobody to turn to.

So be kind to friends, keep in touch with family, treat your partner well, and get to know people at work. Life has it’s ups and downs, but you will stay balanced and maintain stability with you have your relationships in order.

What is life without relationships? Who are we without the people around us? If your relationships aren’t fulfilling your needs, then you either need to create new ones or improve the ones you have. But if you try to navigate life without any relationships, it is a lonely road and you won’t get anywhere.

Flaws

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” - Augusten Burroughs

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Nobody is perfect. That’s a cliché, but it bears repeating. Whenever we get too hard on ourselves, it’s important to remember this fact.

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Things that come easily to some people can be incredibly difficult for others.

But to what extent should we hold ourselves accountable?

For example, if someone is late all of the time…do we consider that trait a flaw to be forgiven? Can the perpetually late person let themselves off the hook and blame it on their nature?

It’s hard to say. On one hand, it seems like we shouldn’t be too tough on ourselves or others if something doesn’t come easily. On the other hand, how can anyone see improvements if we’re always making excuses?

Like almost anything, it’s probably all about striking a balance.

The important thing is to practice compassion when acknowledging the flaws in ourselves and others.

But what about cases where we don’t see people with flaws? When we idolize celebrities or get carried away in love, our rose-colored glasses alter everything in an unrealistic light.

It can be crushing to ‘meet your heroes’ or discover flaws in a partner.

Once again, we just need to keep perspective.

Data

“Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves.” - Tim Berners-Lee

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The Data Manifesto:

  1. Everything is data

    • Anything in the world can be measured. From the number of breaths you take to the number of steps you walk to the number of words you speak. Every industry uses data, from healthcare to aviation to retail.

  2. Data is the future

    • Data will only get more and more relevant. The ability to interpret, analyze, and understand data will only grow in importance.

What else should go on this list?