I, like most people, struggle with balance in my life. And it really is a rather difficult subject, especially if you are the ambitious kind: You want to make progress with your chosen career or your studies. You want to start your own business on the side. You want to workout and look good. You want to eat healthy and lose weight. You want to sleep more and get sick less often. You want to network and meet interesting new people. You want to practice an instrument, learn a language, make a habit of reading more or whatever else strikes your fancy.
How are you supposed to fit all of that into one day? It seems a very stressful, if not hopeless endeavor.
I despise people who use the term “holistic” with a passion. Just Google it really quick and see what comes up: “Holistic Healing.” “Holistic Bodywork.” “Holistic Skin Care.” Oh, and my personal favorite: “Holistic Pet Care.”
Basically, “holistic” functions as the battle cry of the new age nutcases of this planet. They use it as a vague description for an alternative, more wholesome way of going about things, without really knowing what that entails. Kind of like the same type of person keeps bringing up the word “energy” in conversations, without any concrete meaning attached to the word.
Despite this obvious abuse, the idea of “holistic” can have a huge, measureable impact on your life and your productivity, if you drop the hippie-sentiments. The true concept behind the word is actually a profound one: Any alteration of the elements of a given system will have a significant impact on the system as a whole; either strengthening the system or weakening it.
This sounds rather bitter and like I constantly run into people that leave me behind angry and regretful. However, the absolute opposite is true: I almost exclusively spend my time with people that leave me happier than before. But this is only because I have gotten much better over the years at radically cutting out people who are just taking value away from me, without offering anything in return.
This still sounds rather bitter… How do I get this straight?
I just watched several episodes of “The Tim Ferriss Experiment,” a web series where bestselling author Tim Ferriss attempts to master a different skillset for every episode within just 4-5 days. In the series, he starts playing the drums to perform with legendary rock band Foreigner, he studies Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with world champion Marcelo Garcia and he goes surfing with big wave legend Laird Hamilton.
I like the general concept of the show and I like Tim Ferriss as a person; heck, I even wrote a psychogram on the guy. However, I am very critical of the underlying premise of the show, which is also the central argument of Ferriss most recent book, “The 4-Hour Chef“: Everything can be hacked. In essence, Ferriss argues that by applying unusual learning strategies like “deconstruct your subject first” or “starting with the end in mind” you can significantly shorten your learning curve, cramming years of practice into just months or even a few weeks.
Back when I was in high school, I met a teacher in training who would eventually become one of the most important people in my life. At first, he just assisted our regular teacher in explaining the inflected forms of Greek verbs to us (yes, I studied classical Greek, and yes, it was quite the torture). But eventually they let him teach his own classes and this is really where his star started to shine – because not only would he teach us this dusty language, but also the very exciting basics of classical philosophy.
It was not just that I was fascinated by philosophy in itself – it was also the personality of my teacher that got me so fired up. Here was a man who truly thought things through, who held himself accountable for everything he thought and said. But that was only half of it: My teacher M. also LIVED according to his own philosophical maxims, not just indulging in mind games like so many other academics. He would adapt a lifestyle and daily routine that was in sync with his preferred philosophical teachings – Platonism and its offshoots – while rejecting most of the values and “achievements” of modern life.
It never fails to amaze me: People get all hung up on very fine-tuned productivity techniques like GTD, but tend to completely forget about the basics. However, in terms of importance, the basics are where it’s at – they will provide you with much more bang for your buck than the most recent tips on lifehacker.com.
I finally watched the second volume of “Nymphomaniac” last night, a movie by Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, which created some controversy when it first came out in 2013. The movie tells the life story of self-diagnosed nymphomaniac Joe and her unending sexual escapades. What ever you can think of, the movie probably has it: Joe fucking random guys on a train, competing with another nympho friend or hers for the most notches; Joe cultivating her own harem of men, each lover satisfying another of her very facetted sexual needs; Joe becoming a home wrecker, Joe getting into S&M, Joe starting her own torture business. It’s all there, and if you know Lars von Trier, it’s all very graphic.
It sounds a little bit dramatic, but I’m pretty sure I just had the first lucid dream of my life. I purposefully didn’t look up any definitions yet, so as to not affect what I’m about to write; but in any case, it was unlike anything else I have ever experienced while dreaming.
I have always naturally leaned towards perfectionism, for better or worse. No, let me modify this: I have always naturally leaned towards perfectionism and I honestly think that is a good thing. I rarely meet people whose standards are too unrealistically high, but I constantly meet people who do everything they do in a very sloppy manner. So hooray to being an anal stickler for details.
But: perfectionism can also function as an excuse, especially in the context of forming the right daily habits. Perfectionism as an excuse usually works out like this: person X decides on a certain project, i.e. losing weight. Instead of starting his or her diet right away, person X enters into a research phase first. That’s because person X is a self-labeled perfectionist—they are committed to this project now, and therefore want to come up with the best possible method to the problem.
New York always does the same thing to me: Almost by the hour, I discover new things, events and places that I want to try out here. I get so excited by the endless possibilities; I almost end up in a frenzy. The regular reader might object that I once said traveling can increase your productivity – well, not in the case of New York…
But where there is shadow, there is light. Time being a rare commodity in this city, it has brought an important but often overlooked idea back to the forefront of my mind: Utilizing the little breaks of your day. It sounds like your typical pop-psychology advice, but don’t disregard it because it seems too simple. All of us, every day, end up in situations where we are just forced to waste time because of external circumstances. You ride the subway to the Public Library. You wait for your friend who is running 15 minutes late. You have a doctor’s appointment, waiting for your turn. You stand in a really long line at Chipotle. The list is endless.