Waking up from the Dead

by Rajesh Kumar

I’ve finally woken up! That was a long siesta, wasn’t it? It’s been a quiet 4
years around here. My last post Agile Life Projects garnered a fair bit of attention and commentary, and so I hope those strategies have allowed you to change the way you think about your free time. If you followed all the tips outlined in there, I can assure you’d be a much different person today than you might’ve been 4 years ago. I certainly am.

Staying true to my own philosophies, I’ve been keeping busy with a number of life projects as well. Since I wrote my last post in Dec 2012, my life has changed fairly dramatically, and for the better! I ran my first full marathon (26 mi or 42 km), switched jobs, got married, moved to San Francisco, switched jobs again, ran another half-marathon (my third and last one so far), made a big switch from running to cycling as my primary mode of exercise, then proceeded to complete a 100-mile century ride, traveled a bunch to such diverse places as India, Iceland, New Zealand, Banff, Europe, San Diego, Indonesia, etc., tried soylent for the first time and then proceeded to consume it everyday for lunch and breakfast for a week, bought a condo in San Francisco, took my photography hobby to the next level, and finally decided I wanted to get back into writing this year.

Phew! Suffice to say, I’ve been busy :) Both at work as a full-time software
engineer, and outside during the evenings and weekends.

How did I accomplish all this? I made 4 simple yet effective changes to my
life:

Step 1: I quit all social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp. All of it. They were draining my time and I wasn’t seeing the value of any of it. After 4 years of looking at the results, I don’t regret it one bit. Time-sinks need to be aggressively curbed before they take over your life. This change alone saved me almost 2 hours a day.

Step 2: I limited myself to 1-hour of TV a day. And only TV shows, no cable TV. I banned myself from any kind of binge watching, and forcefully limited myself to watching no more than one episode or movie a day. Each season of House of Cards was therefore taking me 2–3 weeks to complete watching when many of my friends were done in a single weekend (or less). Turns out that my way of watching shows allowed me to remember each episode better and more vividly, and because of the immense power of delayed gratification, I also enjoyed each episode more. I further used each episode
as a reward for a tough workout or mental activity that day, so I got some additional value-add there as well.

The idea is that TV can easily become a huge time-sink and it’s up to us to
masterfully control its influence on us. Instead of becoming a slave to the
idiot box, why not use it as a reward to motivate us and get more shit done
everyday?

Step 3: I prioritized physical and mental wellness. I don’t think I’ve fallen sick even once during the last 4 (or 6?) years. A lot of that can be attributed to my obsessions with stellar physical and mental wellness. Regular exercise + meditating a few minutes a day when you’re in the loo or the shower can go a long way in thinking clearly and positively. Getting ahead in my eating and sleeping habits has also been a huge help. Finally, staying underweight has been a phenomenal multiplier to my everyday productivity.

Step 4: I minimized all “hanging out”, chilling, and various other time-consuming socialization mechanisms. I avoided parties and happy hours like the plague. The only way I socialized was to go hiking, camping, or cycling with other people which had the side benefit of getting fitter. We’d have the occasional lunch or dinners, and usually at home, but they would always be time boxed. I could never be caught relaxing or “taking it easy” for more than 10 mins. If I wasn’t doing something, I found something productive to fill that time with, perhaps something from one of my life projects.


Okay so the last 4 years were not too shabby. But focusing forward, I’d like to share my grand plan & goals for this year (2017) and beyond so I can be held accountable for them:

Goal 1: Possibly bike another 100-mile century this year, this time with Sowmya (my wife). It’s been fascinating seeing her go from warming up her biking skills in a parking lot back in 2014 to being able to ride 60+ miles with steep hills no problem. Just yesterday we went on a ~50 mi bike ride to Tiburon and it felt perfectly “normal”. I want to continue remaining supportive in her quest to successfully complete an imperial century this year, which I think is a terrific mark of physical fitness not just for her or me, but for anyone. After one of these thigh-pinching, quadricep burning races, you’ll be left wondering where all that fat magically disappeared and why you feel so feather-light and energetic all of a sudden.

Goal 2: Frugal, frugal, frugal. Both Sowmya and I are going to take our frugality (with a big F) to the next level this year and beyond. Frugality, like your quads, is a muscle that needs to be exercised constantly in order to make regular improvements. We have insane savings goals this year and we’ve done the math to convince ourselves of the value in doing so. Turns out that if you can save (and invest) 17–25x of your annual expenditure in a city you can see yourself living in permanently, you can quit your job and retire in that city right away. Forever.

Being able to not have to work for money anymore could be a fantastic outcome for the both of us (or anyone really). We’re well on our way to attaining that holy grail of savings and should hopefully get there in a few more years (<5). My previously published ideas on living frugually and tips to save money real fast will be forming the basis of our bible for frugal living.

Goal 3: Turn this blog into a living, breathing thing which a lot of people can benefit from. Many people carry on their lives in a very haphazard or unplanned fashion, and 30 years later they’re left wondering why their life is just so normal and blah. If you think this might be you, worry not. With simple tweaks and little changes everyday, you too can convert your life from normcore to awesome in just a few years. Imagine what you can do in a few decades? True happiness (as you define it) is just the sum total of all your daily actions. You just need to show yourself that change is in fact possible.

Goal 4: Be able to eat anything vegetarian, in any format or taste, without restrictions. This is a spill-over goal from last year, but it’s been extremely advantageous in mastering my own mind and senses. It’s also allowed me to focus on the contents of what I eat, more than the taste of it. Substance over form. I used to loathe eating eggplant, asparagus and celery at one point in my life, but not anymore. Now, no veggie is out of bounds; no fruit too foreign (including durian). Why should my petty tongue dictate what I can and cannot eat, when my mind is (and should be) the ultimate decision maker?

To see if I had actually gotten anywhere with this goal, I challenged myself to consume Soylent everyday for lunch for an entire week which many people found utterly disgusting. After succeeding at that, I later tried to see if I could eat solid food in liquid form by blending it into a paste. My co-workers blended dinner one night for me, and the other day Sowmya blended a cherry pie into a smoothie using a Vitamix. Both blending experiments made me realize how unimportant the form of food is, and that it’s all in our heads.


Here’s to a great 2017, and beyond! Stay tuned for more regular tips on life optimization this year and get notified on new posts by hitting Get Updates.

Adios Amigos!