Is There Another Way To Live Life?

Retirement is Worst-Case-Scenario Insurance.

Tim Ferris

I read Tim Ferris’ book The Four Hour Workweek, which turned out to be a conflicting experience. Only until the very last pages I realized why this book provoked this sentiment in me. In there he provides his perspective on the regular 9-5 work structure, and the knowledge and tools to get away from that.

Mobility

The single most important tool in this process, he argues, is mobility. The ability to generate income from anywhere you want. If you are an employee this ideally means “working from home”. When you have your own business, the trick is to create a product or service that can be offered online. Finally, another fully explored option in the book is to fully automatize your company, if it’s not suitable for the internet.

Anyway, all well so far, the thing is though that mister Ferris earned 5 figures a month on the time of writing that book. Easy talking for him right?

I don’t think so. The fact that he earns a lot of money does not mean, that money is the only tool to get what you “want”. If you want to be a millionaire it’s probably not because of all the paper you can now stuff your mattress with, but the possibilities that come as a consequence.

The 80-20 Principle

It is nice therefore, that money is not the only way to get those things. When you work from 9-5, there is a high chance that what you are doing could be done in a lot less time. The 80-20 Principle, striking similarities to Matthews Law that I mentioned in another blog, was introduced by economist Vilfredo Pareto. It dictates that 80% of the output gets generated by 20% of the input.

80% of consequences result from 20% of the causes, 80% of the results from 20% of effort and time, 80% of a company’s revenue will be generated by 20% of the products and customers, and 20% of the people have 80% of the financial capacity. This list is endless and encompasses even your clothes. 80% of the time you wear 20% of what’s in your wardrobe. The division is often more extreme than it is less, 85-15 or 90-10 is not uncommon. So when we talk about your clothes for example, why would you hold on to that 80 percent? And why should you engage in that 80% of work that only generates 20% more output?

Even though, it seems counter intuitive, give it a try. Show your boss, professor, or most importantly yourself, what quality you can provide in 20% of the time. Nobody will probably notice, because the fine tuning you do for 80% of the time usually does not create anything of value.

When you redesign your life this way, you are already getting closer to living like a millionaire right? And you haven’t earned a penny more than before!

Retirement

Then, for a couple of years already I have been wondering about the value of retirement.

old-couple-on-porch
Why wait until your retirement?

Why the hell should I wait until I am 65 to have all the time in the world to do everything I have been wanting to do for 40 years?

Only if you believe that money is an end-goal and security isn’t a sensation but an externally acquirable object, retirement is for you.

I conceive money as a tool, and security as a sensation that doesn’t depend on money. Then how does retirement still make sense? Only if you don’t like your job. When you consider this information, and The Four Hour Workweek gives you plenty ideas and insights on how to do this, there are plenty possibilities to start doing the things you want now.

Those three months turned into 15, and I started to ask myself, “Why not take the usual 20-30 year retirement and redistribute it throughout life instead of saving all for the end?

Tim Ferris

To me, it doesn’t make sense to wait to go rock climbing when you are seventy, start learning a new language when you can only use it for 10 more years, or start hanging out with your family when you can’t lift your children up anymore. Why not start now?

What The Four Hour Workweek Did With Me

I find that the book does a great job putting these decisions in your face. However, it might just be that you are happy where you are, right?

If yes, that’s amazing. I wasn’t sure while reading. I was continuously imagining living in Thailand. I would take a sabbatical, find an opportunity to create some small revenue online, and take up mini-pensions every two years. I felt increasingly conflicted and unhappy with my current situation.

A day later I was walking back home after stopping by the supermarket. I was carrying two backpacks on my back and stomach, full of groceries, wearing my sunglasses even though sun was down. Overthinking the book, I realized: I already live this life. I don’t know if there was anybody watching me but it must have been funny to see a tall gringo, with two backpacks, and sunglasses, laughing like a maniac.

Where Tim Ferris calls it The Four Hour Workweek, I call it living an authentic life, true to your desires. In both cases the lifestyle design is the process to realize evermore of the way of life you want to live. I know that it helps immensely to expand your knowledge, see how others write the rules to their life, and understand your own reasons for working and motivations in life. After reading this book, I realized that that is what this blog is about. I am happy to have figured that out after 9 months!

 

 

How You Are Being Programmed Without Knowing It

If they fire together, they wire together.

Donald Hebb

This famous theory was articulated in the 1940’s by neuroscientist Donald Hebb. He described in his book The Organization of Behavior, how, when various neurons in our brain “fire” together, they “wire” together.

Easier said, this means that when you see your neighbor driving a new blue Volkswagen, the neurons in your brain remembering your neighbor will fire up, just like where the image of the car is represented. From that moment on, you will associate this blue Volkswagen with your neighbor.

Another example of this mechanism is when you smell a particular type of pie, that reminds you of your grandmother. Also, when you are playing soccer, and the ball crosses the white line on the side, you know you have to throw it in again. In both of the aforementioned situations there was a moment, where you learned that the ball crossing the white line means something, and that the smell of pie usually occurs at your grandmother’s. At these moments there were (at least) two neurons firing togetherand therefore wiring together.

However, the stimulation of the two variables needs to be repeated, for it to stick long term. Therefore, when two neurons fire together more often, they form a stronger association.

Now imagine this, you leave your house in the morning, headphones on and you are listening to the latest Coldplay album. You walk to the bus stop, where upon arrival you see a poster sliding by. You see a beautiful woman, looking happy, using a L’Oreal product, followed by a SUV in mountainous terrain.

suvxmountains
SUV x mountainous terrain = sense of adventure

According to “if they fire together, they wire together”, in this story there are either new connections being made, or old ones being strengthened. Important to realize is, that it is not necessary to be consciously present for this mechanism to work. The biggest part of our consciousness, is subconscious. This means that if you do not try be aware of it, you will barely notice it.

modelofconsciousness
Division of our mind

Nevertheless, when the L’Oreal commercial flashes by there is a connection being made between women, probably “prettiness”, and L’Oreal. Just like the Ford SUV, and the mountainous terrain provoke a feeling of adventure. From that moment on you will be more likely to associate these two things. This all depends however, on who you are. Man are more likely to be impressed by the Ford advertising, where women are more likely to be affected by the L’Oreal poster. On top of this all, the fact that you were listening to Coldplay at the time, might make it a trigger to think of these commercials or the feelings they provoked.

None of these associations are being formed because you were asking for it. Rather, they are a consequence of ingenuous marketing targeting your subconscious. This is all based on the idea that emotions drive behavior.

The idea of advertising is to provoke positive emotions in your subconscious.

Even though, marketing companies try to increase the likelihood you will buy their product, a lot of similar mechanisms are going on without their interference.

When we grow up for example, certain behavior is being encouraged, where other is being discouraged. Hitting your little brother will usually not be accepted, but brushing your teeth will. These cues from your parents provoke emotions. Hopefully, as a consequence you will associate positive emotions with brushing your teeth to feel the contrary when you hit your little brother.

At this age, an argument based on the long term consequences of not brushing your teeth will have little effect. Even though, in adulthood we might understand this better, still it is far from the deciding factor in our behavior.

As things go, most of these mechanisms are at work without our attention. Over the years you grew up, your parents might have only given you affection when you perform well in school, or your friends only thought you cool when you were hateful against the history teacher. Where nowadays, your boss only approves of you, when you care more about results than the happiness of your colleagues.

However, do you agree with this? Do you feel these emotions should be triggered in these situations? Is what you believe really what you value, or is it only because some ancient program is triggering “positive” emotions that otherwise have no real meaning. Once you realize this though, you have the opportunity to change.

 

How Less, Is More Freedom of Choice

In a recent blog, I wrote about how I noticed that when I do less, more seems to happen. In reality however, there is not really happening anything more. It is just that I have the head space to notice what is actually going on. On a similar note, the result of minor changes that I made to my daily routine recently, showed me, how reducing my freedom of choice, actually gave me more freedom to choose.

erik-lucatero-543541-unsplash
Unlimited possibilities

I decided that I would not use my phone until midday. As a consequence, my working efficiency went through the roof. After though, I realized that it was not necessarily the phone itself that made it harder to concentrate, but rather the choices it demanded me to make.

Without fully recognizing what was going on, I had to make 20 decisions within a minute. To respond, or not to respond. Like this photo, or not. Watch the next video, yes or no. Ultimately, my mind was tired before anything constructive had taken place.

Over the previous 12.000 years our society has changed immensely. At the time, it began with Agricultural Revolution, that changed our everyday life from gathering and hunting, to making crop grow on the field.

Then, roughly 200 years ago, the Industrial Revolution provoked another major change. Factories allowed for mass production, therefore creating space for other people to specialize in fields that not directly provided food and shelter.

Finally, roughly 50 years ago with the Digital Revolution, the first computers made it’s appearance. From then until now, these computers went from hardly producing a word, the size of a bedroom, to computers that allow you to access every bit of information on the planet, the size of a chest pocket.

The world around us has at least changed a thousandfold, nevertheless, it seems that our brains are still the same as before all these developments. Some sources even argue that our brains have shrank the previous 10.000 years. The amount of decisions we had to make before however, were significantly less than now.

Scholars once proclaimed that the agricultural revolution was a great leap forward for humanity. They told a tale of progress fuelled by human brain power. Evolution gradually produced ever more intelligent people. Eventually, people were so smart that they were able to decipher nature’s secrets, enabling them to tame sheep and cultivate wheat. As soon as this happened, they cheerfully abandoned the gruelling, dangerous, and often spartan life of hunter-gatherers, settling down to enjoy the pleasant, satiated life of farmers. That tale is a fantasy. There is no evidence that people became more intelligent with time.

Harari, Yuval Noah

Our brain, weighs about 2% of our total body mass, but it consumes up to 20% of the body’s energy production. Therefore, the increased amount of decisions that are demanded to us nowadays put even more strain on our energy supplies.

All these possibilities create an illusion of freedom. What is really happening however, is that they trap the mind in a circle of consecutive decision taking processes. That make us prone to worrying about the past, and overthinking the future. Even though, the only thing we can actually influence, is now.

I realized that when I put away my phone, do not open my e-mail, or make a planning, I am far from limiting myself. The thing with restriction is, that it is subject to the values and ideas of myself and my environment. What for the one is restriction, is liberating to the other. In the west we value our “freedom” so highly, that everything that seems to reduce it, is diminishing our quality of life.

When you take a better look though, we have not only become slaves to the luxuries and the comfort we enjoy, even more so, we have become slaves to our sense of freedom. How free are you really then?

I believe freedom is not the accumulation of the amount of choices I have, rather it is the presence that I have when taking decisions.

The moment I reduce all the blur, my mind has energy to do what it is good at. The fact that I limit my physical actions, does not mean that everything that is not physical is limited as a consequence. Therefore, when I reduce the amount I use my phone, the amounts of time I turn on the TV, and the food choices I have to make, I actually create a better environment for my mind to thrive in.