10 Life Lessons from 2017 [Birthday Blog]

Key learnings from 2017

  1. On EXISTENCE: Existence is empty and life is meaningless.
  2. On EXPERIENCES: Life is the sum total of ‘Experiences’. Not all experiences are created equal.
  3. On KNOWLEDGE: Knowledge is as important as imagination, if not more.
  4. On GOALS: Long-term goals are meaningless. Don’t think too far ahead.
  5. On HABITS: Habits are more important than to-do lists. Develop habits, things will get done.
  6. On MINDSETS: Live using mental models. The mindsets will create the life you want.
  7. On MINIMALISM: Simplicity is Bliss. Buy Less, Travel More.
  8. On FLOW: Be Micro-Ambitious, Stay Focused, Do Deep Work.
  9. On HAPPINESS: Happiness is Over-Hyped. There are better options to Pursue.
  10. On CHANGE: Be indifferent to where you live. And ready to change everything anytime.
Above all, Always Doubt The Default.

Let’s explore each of the learnings below.

  1. On EXISTENCE: Existence is empty and life is meaningless.

Existence is empty and life is meaningless.

This might lead you to ponder on questions and feel a persistent existential angst. This may also lead you to fill in the answers with alternative belief systems.

What you really need to do is accept the emptiness and meaninglessness. And then fill the emptiness and make your own life meaning.

Let’s answer some fundamental questions of life before moving on:

Q1. How it all began? 
No answer yet.

Now you have 3 options:

1. Wait for science to answer it — we don’t know how much time that’ll take. 
2. Answer of the gaps — answer it with Gods, religious, folktales, stories, etc. 
3. Ignore the question altogether as it doesn’t add a lot of value to your life.

Q2. How are we here?
Evolution.

Q3. Why are we here?
If you’re asking this, then you’re really asking the wrong question.
Because there is no right answer for this.

This is great because now you can make your own answer to meaning. It would suck if there was a right answer to this question.

Now with that foundation, let’s move on to deeper lessons!

2.On EXPERIENCES: Life is the sum total of ‘Experiences’. Not all experiences are created equal.

Now, this is the answer to what to fill your life with or how do you add meaning to life.

You fill it with experiences.

Bucket lists are out. Experiences lists are in.

Bucket lists are things to do before you die. Experiences list has experiences to experience while you’re ALIVE.

Life is a sum total of the experiences. It’s not about the check-ins, the beaches, the wine, or the cash. It’s about the experiences.

To clarify the difference, we must first understand the ‘Hierarchy of Experiences’ which implies that ‘Not all experiences are created equal’.

I’ve realized based on my response to the experiences I ‘experience’ that different experiences have different levels of responses.

You can create a virtual hierarchy of experiences using this.

For instance, you’ll see a lot of people checking in to exotic destinations and having great food. I do this too. But I’ve realized though these are amazing experiences, they’re a little lower in my hierarchy of experiences.

The below examples will clarify what I mean:

Great experiences but lower down on the hierarchy:
Having a great meal
Checking in to an exotic island on social media
Having an amazing glass of red wine
Others in similar categories: sex/food/wine/partying/etc

Most of the above, like sex and alcohol, have diminishing returns.

Great experiences higher up on the hierarchy:
A mindful walk in the jungle leading up to a mountain peak
A meditation session staring into the sun at sunset
Slow kayaking around an island while listening to classical music
Walking up in the morning in a new culture with different people speaking unknown languages
Having a pot of jasmine tea served with a big smile and enjoying the tea as per Asian tea traditions 
Watching your idea of a blog go viral
Delivering a project for a client and exceeding expectations, receiving an appreciation mail from the team.

Needless to say, the lists will be different for each one of us.

You might say it’s a personal thing and a particular set of experiences mean more to you than others — — but the question is had, you experienced it all?

Create your own experience hierarchy and then aim to have more on the top of the hierarchy.

This doesn’t mean the experiences lower down the hierarchy are not good to have.

3.On KNOWLEDGE: Knowledge is as important as imagination, if not more.

Knowing a lot about a lot of things and especially how they work is a great way to live life.

Imagination is great and poetic. And though you might feel ‘knowing stuff’ takes the poetry out of the experience— it’s actually the other way round.

You can know the physical forces applying on a hammock as per the laws of physics while you’re sipping on a beer on the island and enjoy the hammock-ing experience even more.

Also, you can know how waves are created and enjoy the beautiful surfing experience you’re having even more.

Moreover, You can know how insignificant your galaxy is and enjoy looking up at the stars in the night sky even more.

Also, Knowledge is real but imagination isn’t always.

4.On GOALS: Long-term goals are meaningless. Don’t think too far ahead.

You didn’t evolve to chase one dream throughout your life. Don’t look for that ‘dream’ purpose because it doesn’t exist. There was no seed. If at all you feel there is something you always wanted to do, you or someone else planted that seed. Not for any reason in particular. Off all the simultaneous events in the universe, a few such events coincide to make you feel you have a reason — and that’s why coincidences can be so poetic.

You were given this pursuit of achieving your ‘dream’ by the media, by motivational gurus, bloggers like me, and shitty movies like ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’.

Here’s what more important: Doing whatever you’re doing right now really well. Focused deep work on achieving multiple micro and short-term achievements.

This adds up and takes you to places you’ve never imagined.

Here’s what happens when you spend your life working on a single long-term dream goal: You don’t live long enough to achieve it. Most of us won’t. We will die. And it might be tomorrow or today or right now.

Even if you live long enough to achieve the shiny dream, you will stare in the face of it and realize its fucking meaninglessness.

And it was meaningless all along. You just realize it now. When you see it in the face, if you do. If, at all, you do.

Instead of pursuing a never-ending long term goal, start engaging in focused deep work sessions to achieving results in whatever you’re doing now.

It can be as short-term as cooking a nice meal, writing an amazing blog, designing an artwork.

Live a mindful life full of wonderful daily habits. Reach the ‘flow’ state in everything you do. Live each day with FLOW and in the state of FLOW.

It is true that you give up whatever else comes your way when you have a single long-term goal. But that’s exactly what sucks. You might be giving up a lot of small sources of life experiences.

5.On HABITS: Habits are more important than to-do lists. Develop habits, things will get done.

To-do Lists are great tools to keep yourself busy — but not necessarily keep you productive and moving forward.

Checking off those little ones from your daily list doesn’t mean you’re getting anywhere in life.

To really move the needle forward, create the right habits.

6.On MINDSETS: Live using mental models. The mindsets will create the life you want.

The most successful people live by mindsets. Once you develop the right mindsets or mental models, you won’t need daily motivational videos, success quotes or inspiration talks.

My mindset is a combination of the stoic mindset (daily living) and the growth mindset (for my business goals).

You don’t need a belief system, you need a mind system.

7.On MINIMALISM: Simplicity is Bliss. Buy Less, Travel More.

There is no debate between experiences vs things.

Some cultures focus on hoarding but you make your own approach to things in life. Develop a mindset which will move you more in the direction of living experiences than buying things.

Get an Uber, don’t buy a car.
Travel and live anywhere, don’t buy a house.
Rent, don’t buy.

Buy less, travel more.

8.On FLOW: Be Micro-Ambitious, Stay Focused, Do Deep Work.

Deep work focused on the present moment in whatever project you’re working on creates a FLOW experience.

A distraction-free life and work is a great experience to live.

9.On HAPPINESS: Happiness is Over-Hyped. There are better options to Pursue.

Don’t chase happiness. It’s not the best thing to do with your life.

It’s hyped — a lot.

10.On CHANGE: Be indifferent to where you live. And ready to change everything anytime.

Be ready to change everything about your life and any given point.

Be indifferent to where you live.

Doubt the default

The hardest way is not always the best, unlike popular societal beliefs.

There is always more than one way to the top of the mountain. Find the best way — which is usually not the default way.

Don’t reject the default but ALWAYS doubt it.

Only when you doubt the default, you can find a better way to do something.

Finding a faster, easier, better way is NOT a bad thing! It’s a SMART move.

It’s the smartest move of all.

Always DOUBT THE DEFAULT.

Cheers!