Capitalist

I organised a meet-up / event recently as an experiment. (I’ve been trying out ways to stimulate creativity in non-professional settings — through writing prompts, boardgames etc.)

The ice breaking activity at the latest event was to “write your life story in three sentences”. I wrote: 

“My ambition when I was young was to be a starving artist. It’s turned out to be harder than expected. I like money too much.”

And it’s true. I don’t know how to be a starving artist. 

But while I love making money and even more than that, having my money work for me, I think what’s equally important is how that money is made. 

“A capitalist with principles,” a friend teased when we spoke about this.

Yes, I’ve recently come to accept the capitalistic side of me. 

But it’s not so much about the money per se. I see money as validation — that the work or products that I’m putting out into the world are providing value. 

And on the flip side, being a business owner has made me a better consumer as well. I’ve learned it’s important to be kind. To be grateful. To be gracious. 

We are all part of an ecosystem. 

Ruthless

In The Third Door by Alex Banayan, he used (said to be) Warren Buffett’s 5/25 strategy to help him decide which path to take when he was a crossroads that both went down (what seemed like) equally desirable paths.

The 5/25 strategy is simple in theory. Write down 25 things that you would want to accomplish in your lifetime. Circle the five most important. 

The five become what you pursue. The remaining 20 are things you must avoid at all costs. 

In theory, it’s simple. But in practice, it’s one of the hardest things to do. 

It’s basically saying no to 20 other things that you love, that are important enough to have made the list. 

Perhaps this is what it really means when people say that if you want to achieve your big goals in life, you have to be ruthless. Not ruthless with other people, but with yourself. 

In writing, there’s a common saying: Kill your darlings. 

It means you have to be brutal with the piece of work that you’ve just bled out. That no matter how hard you’ve worked on it, you have to be savage and cut out the parts that don’t elevate your piece of work enough. 

That’s how you produce a masterpiece.

Villains

At least a couple of times now, I have spoken to people who have told me about the “villain” in their lives. This is normal. In our own stories where we are (obviously) the hero, there will be villains. 

What was surprising was that the villain in their lives, were “friends and sidekicks” or “helpers” in mine. 

This made me realise that the villains in my life may be less villainous in someone else’s story. And although I’d already realised this, it solidified the thought that I’m probably the villain in someone else’s story as well. 

It’s terribly hard to be human. To find that balance between wanting to be the good guy and at the same time stay true to yourself. It’s impossible to be the good guy in everyone’s story. It’s impossible to please everyone. 

Perhaps it’s about learning to respect boundaries. To understand that everyone is their own person and to not expect them to do this or say that. To realise that the truth has many faces and that everyone has their own point of view. 

Who knows why people do the things they do? At times we do things that we ourselves aren’t able to make sense of. How can someone else figure us out?

People are complex. In the words of Walt Whitman, we “contain multitudes”. 

Long

Seth Godin wrote on his blog today that “the long run is made up of a bunch of short runs”. 

We all know this. We know it so well that we take it for granted. 

“We live our short runs as if that isn’t true,” Godin writes. 

It’s hard to remember that what seems like such a big deal in the short term will be nothing in the long term. That is, if we choose not to let things get to us. If we take actions to ensure that we are still on track for the long run. 

It gets difficult some days to remember that although it seems like I am going nowhere, if I keep going, and keep going in the right direction, in the long run, I’ll get to where I want to be.

What you do in your minutes, adds up to your hours and days and years, I try to remind myself. 

Making money might seem like the most important thing right now, but I refuse to look back on my life in the long run, and wish that I had spent more time on my health and my family. 

I want to make those things important now

Plan in decades. Think in years. Work in months. Live in days.

— Mel Robbins

Magic

I’ve been increasing my reading on Chaos Magic lately. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to find out more about ever since I first came across it.

I first read about Chaos Magic while doing some research about tarot and my first reaction was deep recognition. It’s something I’ve been practising for years now, without realising that it had a name.

It’s how I knew that I would get the ASEAN scholarship as I sat for the qualifying exams. It’s how I manage to find a parking spot exactly where I want to, even on a busy street. I’ve used it unknowingly in almost every aspect of my life.

I’ve always thought of it as a focusing of energy. I can feel that energy being pulled from the Universe, channeled through my body, then focused on one particular thing. Since I started reading about Chaos Magic, I’ve been experimenting with tools that I think might amplify that energy.

I like the variety, combining methods, and lately, writing my own “spells” (also known as prayers, if you’re religious).

The practice of Chaos Magic and Stoicism have helped me to overcome challenges that have seemed insurmountable when I was in the thick of it.

And however I first discovered it, I’m grateful.

Over-consumption

I miss my Medium membership. Late last year, I finally got tired of seeing the paywall so I started a Medium subscription. I figured that it’d also give me another opportunity to support writers that I like.

Then earlier this year, I decided to sign up for Kindle Unlimited. I don’t read that much, I thought. So I cancelled on Medium, also as an experiment to see if I would miss it.

Less than a month later, I realise, I miss it.

But as I think about reactivating my subscription, I wonder, how much content can a person consume? And am I consuming too much?

Books (audio, e, paper), music, Netflix, email newsletters, Wikipedia! All entertaining, and possibly mind-nourishing as well.

But thinking about this now brings back an experience I had with foie gras.

I used to love foie gras. (No, I didn’t become vegan or suddenly get some kind of meat-eating related conscience.)

So when I was in Hungary, apparently the world’s second largest foie gras producer (after France), of course I had to eat foie gras.

There, the servings don’t come in tiny portions. My main course of foie gras was two steak-sized pieces.

Two whole slabs of that smooth, buttery texture. That sweet taste of fat. All that almost-melt-in-your-mouth goodness. And it was all mine!

That was almost five years ago and that memory still brings joy.

But the weird thing is that I haven’t eaten foie gras since. Or loved it as much.

Grind

One of the best things about no longer being a news journalist is that I don’t have to keep up with current events. 

In a Twitter thread about what she’s learned after taking a break from journalism, Sally Kuchar said, “You get to unplug.” 

And to a certain extent, this has been true for me. 

Every single time I leave a “job” behind, I get to unplug even more. 

I no longer feel pressured to follow politicians I don’t give a shit about. I don’t have to be a participant in FB groups that talk about things I’m not interested in. I no longer get Google Alerts filled with articles that make my eyes roll. 

As I’m typing all of that now, I wonder why I even let myself work on things that I didn’t care about. Or was I, at some point, excited about those things? Or am I just being a complainer? 

Or perhaps in everything there are bits that are less than desirable. Like having a pet. I love my dog, but picking up his shit is meh

But maybe it’s not about eliminating the undesirable. Maybe what we’re supposed to do is reduce the need for them. Figure out alternatives. Automate. Outsource. 

And if that’s not possible (yet), grind. And remember why we need to do those things.