Wait, our whole life is just a firefly blinking once in the night?

It’s not often that I read or listen to something that stops me in my tracks because it resonates so deeply. It happened yesterday.

It came from Tim Ferriss’s latest podcast with Naval Ravikant (CEO and a co-founder of AngelList and successful investor). Naval was back to answer ten questions from listeners and he took on one about a life insight he has.

It was so awesome and is something I am going to remember when I find myself worrying too much about the future.

I transcribed that part of it below. I highly recommend listening to the whole thing. It’s only an hour long and the whole thing is excellent.


Q: What insight about life have you acquired that seems obvious to you, but might not be obvious to everyone else?

Naval: This one is a tough one, its a deep question. I do have one fundamental, recent belief that I’ve acquired in the last few years that I don’t think most people would agree with. But it’s such a personal thing and it came about in such personal circumstances that I’m not sure anyone else will get there in the same line of reasoning. That said, I’ll lay it out anyway.

Which is, I’m not afraid of death anymore. And I think a lot of the struggle that we have in life comes from a deep, deep fear of death. And it can take form in many ways. One can be that we want to write the great American novel, or we really want to achieve something in this world, we want to build something, we want to build a great piece of technology or we want to start an amazing business or we want to run for office and make a difference.

And a lot of that just comes from sort of this fear that we’re going to die, so we have to build something that lasts beyond us. Obviously also the obsession that parents have with their children. I mean a lot of that is warranted and biological love, but some of that is also the quest for immortality. Even some of the beliefs or some of the more outlandish parts of organized religion, I think fall into that.

And I don’t have that quest for immortality anymore. And I think I came to this fundamental conclusion. I thought about it a lot and the Universe has been around for a long time. The Universe is a very, very large place. If you study even the smallest bit of science, you’ll realise that for all practical purposes, we are nothing. We’re like, we are amoeba. We’re bacteria to the Universe. We’re basically monkeys on a small rock, orbiting a small backwards star in a huge galaxy which is in an absolutely staggering gigantic Universe which itself is likely part of a gigantic multi-verse.

And this universe has been around probably for ten billion years or more and will be around for tens of billions of years afterwards. So your existence, my existence is just infinitesimal.

It’s like a firefly blinking once in the night. So we’re not really here very long and we don’t really matter that much. And nothing that we do lasts. So eventually you will fade. Your works will fade. Your children will fade. Your thoughts will fade. This planet will fade. The sun will fade. It will all be gone. There are entire civilizations that we just remember now with one or two words. Like Samarian or Mayan. Do you know any Samarians or Mayans? Do you hold any of them in high regard or esteem? Have they outlived their natural life span somehow? No.

So I think we’re just here for an extremely short period of time. Now from here you can choose to believe in an afterlife or not. And if you really do believe in an afterlife, then that should give you comfort and make you realize that maybe everything that goes on in this life is not that consequential.

On the other hand if you don’t believe in an afterlife, then you should also come to a similar conclusion which you realize that this is such a short and precious life, that it’s really important that you don’t spend it being unhappy. There is no excuse for spending most of your life in misery. You’ve only got seventy years out of the fifty billion or so that the universe is going to be around. Whatever your natural state is, it’s probably not this. This is your living state, your dead state. It’s true over a much longer time frame. So when I think about the world that way, I sort of realize that it’s just kind of a game. Which is not say that you go to a dark place and you start acting unethically and unmorally – quite the contrary.

You realize just how precious life is and how it’s important to make sure that you enjoy yourself, you sleep well at night, you’re a good moral person, you’re generally happy, you take care of other people, you help out. But you can’t take it too seriously, you can’t get too hung up over it, you can’t make yourself miserable and unhappy over it. You just have a very short period of time here on this Earth. Nothing you do is going to matter that much in the long run. Don’t take yourself so seriously. And then that just kind of helps make everything else work.

So yeah. That’s that’s an insight about life that I’ve acquired that now seems obvious to me. But it’s really not I think obvious to most people.


Check out the full podcast here.

2016 so far

At the beginning of 2016, I set out a few focuses for the year. Now that we’re a month in, it’s a good time to reflect and see how I’m doing.

be adventurous — set monthly adventure challenges; make friends with adventurous people

Whilst I didn’t set or do an adventure challenge in January, I did a few things to build momentum for a more adventurous year.

  • I’ve committed to a cycling challenge in March. 120 miles through Yorkshire over two days (March 4th and 5th).
  • I have followed a few adventurous and inspiring people on twitter.
  • I created an adventure / challenge list to keep track of my ideas for stuff to do.

Still a bit too much talk and no action, but that will change. I will do something in February to get me outside of my comfort zone. And, I’ll need to definitely get out and do some longer cycling rides to prep for Yorkshire in March.

move forward financially — earn, be frugal, stick to budgets and save

I feel mixed on this. I’ve made some progress, but I’m a million miles from where I want to be. I’m still looking for a new role, and until I find it, the earning and saving part is on hold. That leaves being frugal and sticking to budgets.

I set out a household and personal budget for Jan and went over it quite a bit. This was because of a combination of some unforeseen expenses (washing machine died, car insurance renewal I forgot about etc.) and some old non-frugal habits (bit of eating out, buying stuff I don’t really need etc.).

That said, it was an improvement on 2015. I made plenty of decisions throughout the month that brought my spending down. And, actually setting a budget made me more conscious of my spending throughout the month. This is the first step to getting to where I want to be.

I’ve adjusted the budgets a bit for February and will keep getting better. It’s going to take a a bit of time to transition from wasteful habits to being more frugal and owning less.

find work I enjoy, is meaningful and will challenge me

As I got started looking for the next thing, it hit home how much I’ve isolated myself the last couple of years (taking a bit of time off and then working on Rescover from home). I was never a networking extraordinaire, but because I was senior and in a circle of stuff going on, my previous gigs came about very fluently. It’s clear I now face a cold start.

But, I knuckled down and just went at it. I’ve started stoking the network of people I know and have been meeting some new and helpful people too. I also found some companies I like and have made some good progress in getting in front of them. I just need to continue pressing forward and I’m positive something will click.

One good breakthrough is I put some time into thinking about exactly what type of role I want. I’m now super clear on that. I want to get back to a hands on operational / product role, preferably with an early stage / growth company. The favourite period of my career so far was as Operations Manager at Jagex. I loved the challenge of helping a company and product grow and scale quickly. It plays to my strengths best.

spend lovely time with ella and fearne

We’ve had some nice times together in January. Ditching my iphone has helped me be more present for sure. I can still do better of course. The key seems to be having things planned to avoid slipping into a bit of a non-eventful day. And I want to better in general at being present and just relaxing and enjoying the moment.

be active — do crossfit classes and some light stuff around it

I signed up to the foundation course at Crossfit Stags & Does and have been twice a week in January – with just one missed session. I am loving it and the lower back is holding up too. Some of the WODS (workout of the days) at the end of the sessions have been tough, but it feels great to be pushing myself. In February I want to build on this and add in a bit of running and cycling on top.

improve mobility — stick to a basic routine in mornings and evenings

I can do better here. I’ve been doing it maybe 30% of the time. Not good enough. I want to do 5 or so exercises in the morning and a couple before bed. It’s just a matter of making it part of my morning and evening routines and getting it done quite. Will do better in Feb. I started this morning with 5 exercises, so I’m off to a good start 😉

eat paleo — start 50/50, eventually work up to 80/20

I’m fairly pleased on this front. I’m at about 50/50, so that’s good. And my weight has settled about 5 lbs lighters at ~185lbs. But, it all feels a bit unstructured and I definitely have pigged out on too many occasions. My wine consumption is a bit heavy too, so I want to cut that back. In February I am going to eat strict paleo on my non crossfit days, with Sunday as an exception – so 4 days. That will put me at over 50%. And even on the non-paleo days I intend to have some paleo meals, so I may even get to over 60%. Also, I am going to give up alcohol in Feb (with one evening as an exception).

Final few Words

I’m pretty happy with how the year has started. I’ve made good progress on most focuses and know how I want to build on that throughout the next couple of months.

This was intended to be a one off exercise, but I think I will do it every month. I found it really useful to reflect and focus on the month ahead. A lot of the thoughts for February came to me as I wrote this. And I’ll be better off for having them.

Tim Ferriss’s genius move

Tim Ferriss is a genius for launching a podcast. I’ll explain why.

I’m a big believer that you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. If Tim Ferriss was able to connect them looking forward with the podcast — well, he’s a frickin genius. If not, he still comes out a genius when you connect them looking back.

Tim Ferriss is building one of the most powerful personal networks in the world

I mean, he had a pretty awesome one already right? The podcast 10 X’ed it.

Tim has interviewed the likes of Peter Theil, Tony Robbins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Triple H, Rick Rubin, Chris Sacca, Scott Adams, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kevin Costner, Jamie Foxx, Edward Norton etc.

EPIC.

And quite frankly, by only mentioning the most famous I do a disservice to the interesting and successful people who aren’t quite as famous. Wim Hof, Jocko Willink, Will MacAskill, Derek Sivers, Casey Neistat, Richard Betts, Tara Brach, Samy Kamkar etc.

You’ll also notice the guests get more epic over time. That’s evidence of how the podcast is allowing Tim to connect with higher profile people as the show goes on.

Expanding a personal network to that degree is priceless. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Obama is around the corner!

Tim Ferriss is growing his audience like wildfire

The genius about interviewing other people, is that the interviewee will promote it when it goes live — and when they’re famous, they usually have a pretty big following themselves.

They will also have many high profile friends in their own network, who go on and share it (each with their own significant audiences). So each episode ends up getting supercharged through the interwebs.

The sheer variety of guests interviewed only helps to broaden Tim’s audience. Film stars, philanthropists, billionaires, authors, investors, founders, military figures, athletes, musicians — the list goes on.

Geeeeeenius.

Tim Ferriss is getting a learning experience on steroids

Have you ever noticed that Tim tends to ask questions that relate to what he is going through or thinking about for the future?
A bit of coaching from Tara Brach. Acting tips from Edward Norton.

And that’s just on the interview. Imagine the pre interview chats and catch ups in the future.

I’m not saying he is picking or manipulating the guests for his own selfish purposes. It’s likely just a product of where his interests lie at any one time.

Tim Ferriss is becoming an exceptional interviewer

I’ve listened to nearly every episode. Right from the beginning, Tim was quite a good interviewer. But if I was being super harsh, I would say he talked a bit too much and waffled at times. He also missed opportunities to get the gold out of a guest.

To see this improve so starkly as the show has gone on is awesome. He’s now exceptional at maximising the time with each guest. When he talks, it’s usually to clarify or add his own nugget of wisdom in. Or it’s to dig in further on a point — or steer the interview to another place just at the right time.

Tim Ferriss is building an awesome platform for promoting products

Like his personal network, his platform for promoting his own products was already pretty good.

The podcast helped significantly expand it. Whether it’s his next product, crowdfunding campaign, Tim Ferriss book club book or a sponsors product — he manages to weave then in naturally and non-offensively.

Balancing publishing with promoting is not easy. He does it excellently.

Tim Ferriss does all of the above whilst adding immense value for his guests and listeners

And that’s one of the most genius things about the podcast.

Tim helps expands the guests audience and sell their products — in a very real and effective way. Tim has the trust and respect of his audience. They listen and act when he says or recommends something.

He also delivers immense value for the listener. I get a few actionable realisations from some of the smartest and successful people every week — for FREE.

Tim Ferriss is a genius

He’s personal network building is on steroids. He’s getting an education from the best. He’s significantly building his reach and selling power. And he’s delivering huge value in an authentic way to both his guests (for free) and listeners.

I salute you Tim Ferriss.

obama

P.S. having lunch with Tim Ferriss just went on my bucket list!

Lists and using Trello to run my life

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, I’m going to start using Trello to organise my life.

Richard Branson is a big advocate of making lists and I seem to be coming across more and more people who swear by keeping lists.

I guess I’ve always used lists to keep organised, but it’s been a mix of Microsoft word, notepad, google docs and a moleskin notepad. Some lists might not get looked at for weeks and I’m not particularly good at remembering things that come to mind throughout the day. It’s about time I tried to pull everything together and get a system that works.

Trello is super easy to use and it’s quick to move things between lists and re-order items within lists.

I’ve set up two boards — me and work. Each board has a number of lists and here’s what I started with:

me

  • to do
  • house jobs
  • bucket list
  • friends to connect with
  • ideas

work

  • to do
  • my interests
  • sources for finding companies
  • companies — to look at
  • companies — to contact
  • companies — applied
  • people to catch up with

That pretty much covers everything at the moment.

I’m going to make a habit of carrying around a notepad with me so I can get stuff quickly out of my head, when and as I think of them. I’ll then move them from notepad to trello at the end of the day.

When I sit down each morning to think about the day ahead, I’ll start with the lists.

I’m looking forward to seeing it works. I think the process of catching ideas quickly with a notepad will mean I’ll forget things less and get more done. Using trello will keep lists front and centre of my daily planning process — again, I should get more done.

I’ll let you know how it works out and if you have any tips for using lists and keeping organised, feel free to suggest here 😉

Goal Setting is overrated: an alternative

I’m not big on New Year resolutions, but the start of a new year is a good time to do some thinking. I like to reflect on the previous year and think about where I want to focus for the year ahead.

I’ve drifted away from goal-setting over the last few years. I was super hardcore for a long time, but eventually admitted that I found it more harmful than useful. I found myself frustratingly re-writing my goals each month as my motivations changed.

I felt like a failure each month, even though I was actually getting good stuff done.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Steve Jobs.

I couldn’t agree with this more. Most of the best things I have done in my life didn’t have a very specific plan in advance. Some of them were the result of me having general intentions, and in fact some of them were entirely random.

I now settle on a few principles which guide how I choose to spend my time each week, and day.

I keep these things in a document, which I look at each morning.

So what’s in the document? There are 3 sections:

  1. Focuses for the year
  2. A current monthly challenge
  3. Areas of my life

Focuses for the year

I try to stick to a handful of focuses that guide my overall actions for the year. I intentionally make them as non-specific as I can, because I want them to serve only as direction. They give me nudge on a weekly and daily basis, so I can think about what action I might want to take.

Here are mine for 2016:

  • be adventurous — set monthly adventure challenges; make friends with adventurous people
  • move forward financially — earn, be frugal, stick to budgets and save
  • find work I enjoy, is meaningful and will challenge me
  • spend lovely time with ella and fearne
  • be active — do crossfit classes and some light stuff around it
  • improve mobility — stick to a basic routine in mornings and evenings
  • eat paleo — start 50/50, eventually work up to 80/20

When I used to goal set, I would be very specific. I.e have 2 nice evenings out a month with friends. Deadlift x weight, for y reps. Grow net worth by x amount etc.

I now just have focuses for the year, leaving a lot of room for what I will actually do. Maybe the ‘adventure’ focus will see me doing more interesting stuff on the weekend. Maybe I will commit to a big event. Maybe our holiday for this year will have an adventure theme. Who knows.

What’s more important is that I continually think about being adventurous and make friends with adventurous people throughout the year. Whatever action I take will be what feels right at the time. I’ll have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in my future.

Monthly challenges

I started doing monthly challenges in 2015 and enjoyed it. I pick something to start doing, or give up each month.

For January I’ve decided not to check email or social networks until midday. It’s a habit that’s intrigued me for ages and I want to finally give it a try.

I like monthly challenges because 30 days is a good period of time to create or destroy a habit. Sure, not every challenge will stick afterwards, but even if only a couple do a year — that’s pretty good going.

Even when they don’t stick for good, they tend to influence my future behaviour in some way. For example, when I gave up alcohol for a month, I decided to have a wine on the very first day of the next month!

But, giving it up for 30 days changed my relationship with alcohol for good. I drink less wine in the evenings now. I also control my drinking way better on nights out. All because of what I learnt in the 30 days I gave up alcohol. I liked sleeping better and waking up fresher on weekday mornings. Not having a hangover from a big night out for a whole 30 days felt awesome too.

Areas of my life

I have picked a handful of areas which my life tends to get divided up into — family, friends, health, work, learning etc. I actually have seven of them.

Under each one I have a few notes which help remind me where my heads at with that particular area at the moment.

Heres how my ‘learning’ area looks at the moment:

  • read
  • write
  • listen to podcasts
  • seek out and speak to smart and interesting people
  • take time away to switch off, be quiet and think

As I review my areas, I will often delete, edit or add some stuff, depending on how my thinking is changing. It’s basically an up-to-date set of notes on what’s important to me right now for that area.

So, when I read through it, it helps guide what I may decide to do that day.

When I skimmed my document earlier this morning, I decided that today I would push forward with my current book for half an hour or so, and also spent some time writing (this article). Tomorrow and the next day it might be nothing. The following day I might make a note to take the afternoon off to just go for a long walk and switch off.

As you can see, it’s not a set list. I edit, delete and add to it regularly depending on how what’s important to me changes. I don’t have to do all, or any of it. It’s just there as a nudge.

So to re-cap.

  • I have a handful of focuses for the year, which will mostly stay the same throughout (they are big and vague enough, that I doubt I will change my mind on them).
  • I set myself a challenge of some type each month — something to start doing or give up.
  • I have a handful of areas which are important to my life (again, they rarely change through the years). Within each is a set of notes which represent what’s important to me right now.

Weekly and daily planning

This is what brings it together.

Weekly — On a Sunday evening, I try to block out half an hour to think about the week ahead. Roughly, where do I want to spend my energy?

Some weeks I might decide I want to almost exclusively focus on my health. Other weeks I might tread water on my health and decide to put more focus on work stuff.

Daily — Every morning, I review the document and plan out my day in detail. The document guides that planning. It influences what I spend my day doing.

In a nutshell, the big document allows me to get my big thoughts down on paper. I guess the yearly focuses are similiar to a strategy. The rest is the plans and execution part (notes within the areas of focus and the weekly / daily planning).

I find that this gives a good balance between having some things to focus on, yet remaining flexible.

Here are some other good reads on this subject that have helped shaped my thinking over the years. All three writers have similiar views on goal setting.

Achieving Without Goals by Leo Babauta

Living with no goals by The Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead by James Clear.