To have love, work, and friends

Found this through Austin Kleon’s email newsletter.

Is it too greedy to want to have all three? And to have all three to a high degree? I’m not sure I agree that we have to pick two. I haven’t put much thought into it but I do have examples in my life that seems to have managed to achieve all three.

Maybe it’s more difficult to have all three than it is two. By a factor that is multiple times that of moving from one to two. And so the conclusion is easily drawn that we must pick two, but never three.  Reminds me of this saying of products and services that says of the qualities fast, good, and cheap, you can only pick two. So if a product is fast and of good quality, it will not be cheap. If it is of good quality and is cheap, then it will not be fast. If it is cheap, then you have to choose between good quality or fast service/delivery.

The anecdotes do sound convincing but what if Michelangelo wasn’t interested in parties or Homer just wasn’t into romantic relationships? Also, correlation does not equal causation.


Don’t waste time to save a few dollars

Saw this on twitter today:

I want to add don’t waste time to make a few bucks also. I had a recent experience that made me think how important this is.

A friend of mine got the opportunity to take on a quick web project last weekend. The thing is, the project is a little over his head in terms of his current skillset. He needs the money though so he
says yes to the project. He spends the next few day including the entire weekend, multiple sleepless nights learning and building out the project. Also, the client does not have all the information for the project ready but still wants it by x date. So now my friend is stressing about delivering on time meanwhile spending entire nights awake to the point where his body is shaky from exhaustion. But he needs to get paid so he continues. There’s more. While he’s stressing about this job he has other jobs too so after this job is finished he’ll have to spend more sleepless nights catching up on those.

The crazy thing is if he wasn’t so focused on making a few bucks he could have found a better way. He could have easily hired out the work to someone who could do it in a day for a fraction of the total budget. He would make a bit less money but what he would have earned would be at minimum five times his normal hourly rate. Considering the hours he spent on this project he ended up earning maybe half of his hourly rate. He made more money taking on the job but the few extra bucks he made came at a high cost. He could have spent the weekend chilling with his partner, prospecting for new clients, resting and so many things that are way more valuable than those few bucks.

On another note there’s also this. You get what you tolerate and you’ll get more of it. As it relates to freelancing when you let a client know you’ve just done a full weekend with sleepless nights to do a ‘urgent’ project you can be sure they’ll expect that again in the future. And the other clients that that client recommend to you will expect that as well. The more you tolerate unreasonable requests the more unreasonable requests you will get.

What are your guiding principles?

A gentleman asked me yesterday “What are your guiding principle? What guides your decisions?” Then this morning I woke up to this being the next page of the Daily Stoic book I’m currently reading:

Character is a powerful defense in a world that would love to be able to seduce you, buy you, tempt you, and change you. If you know what you believe and why you believe it, you’ll avoid poisonous relationships, toxic jobs, fair-weather friends, and any number of ills that afflict people who haven’t thought through their deepest concerns. That’s your education. That’s why you do this work.

I got caught a bit off guard with that question but I could immediately think of two things:

  1. Will my decision or action cause injury to others and
  2. Am I being true to myself

I must admit though that often I fail in the second but I’m getting better at it. It helps that whenever I fail it usually comes back to bite me in the ass down the road. A good dose of negative re-enforcement. I don’t think those two items are sufficient to call them my only guiding principles. I think I do need to at least create a set of principles to measure my decisions again. See how they serve me and tweak as necessary.

What is good? What is bad?

There’s this story of the Chinese farmer that illustrates why it is probably not the best to think in terms of good or bad. Here’s the story told by Allan Watts and illustrated Steve Agnus for Sustainable human:


I’ve been thinking lately about perceptions. About how relative thinks like morals are and how differently different people even within the same culture will consider a thing to be good or bad. This has brought me to reflect on Marcus Aurelius’s journal entry “that all is as thinking makes it so – and you control your thinking. So remove your judgement whenever you wish and then there is calm – as the sailor rounding the cape finds smooth water and the welcome of a waveless bay”. Easier said than done.

It’s interesting but not surprising that this idea of removing judgements pops up in stoicism, zen Buddhism, and modern day behavioral therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might have had some roots in stoicism but zen Buddhism grew this similar philosophy on their own. It makes me think any movement that sets out to improve ones mental well being, serenity and happiness will at some point happen up on this universal truth. And then there is the expression “It is what it is”. An expression that often comes when you cant decide whether something is good or bad. So your mind goes to the default — It is what it is. As Alan watts says:

The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad — because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.

and just to share another stoic’s take on this matter here’s Epictetus:

What disturbs men’s minds is not events but their judgements on events: For instance, death is nothing dreadful, or else Socrates would have thought it so. No, the only dreadful thing about it is men’s judgement that it is dreadful. And so when we are hindered, or disturbed, or distressed, let us never lay the blame on others, but on ourselves, that is, on our own judgements. To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education; to accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun; to accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.

I feel like I should qualify this post by saying that not thinking of events in terms of good or bad does not mean not having feelings about said events. In the example Epictetus used he refers to someone dieing. I don’t think one should be emotionless where you don’t cry for a loved one. I don’t think one should not see it for what it is though — another event that boils down to “it is what it is”. Cry and mourn and feel the hurt. But when you’re done doing that move on.

Beautiful people do not just happen

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassions, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
For a bit of perspective, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a psychiatrist who spent much of her time with terminally ill patients who had only a few months to live. You might know her work by way of “The five stages of grief”, a theory she shared in 1969 and is pretty famous today. Her life of working with the ill and dying provides some insight into the mind behind this quote.

Another quote from an interview she did rings true of life

In Switzerland I was educated in line with the basic premise: work work work. You are only a valuable human being if you work. This is utterly wrong. Half working, half dancing – that is the right mixture. I myself have danced and played too little.