What I Learned About Myself and the World in 2018

This year felt like a hurricane sweeping through my life without mercy. I experienced more challenges than the last few years.

Big Discoveries for the Rest of My Life

Be Less Attached To The People In Your Life

“You care and think about the people in your life way too damn much. Naturally, you end up giving them more than they could ever give back. Or you end up giving your attention to the wrong people”.

Those were the resounding words echoing in my mind on one particular day during Vipassanna. It’s been humbling to realize that.

Communicate Via Text Less

This kind of ties in with the previous point. A text conversation with someone creates an inner monologue in my head of me having a conversation with a person that’s not there. In a sense, it almost feels like I’m talking to an illusion when prolonged i.e. let’s say a 10 mins WhatsApp conversation. The echo of that conversation ends up affecting my state of peace, and I no longer feel calm.

What’s the best course of action then?

Keep messages short, and sweet.

Go back and forth no more than a few times with someone. Calls or meetups are infinitely more meaningful and healthier.

Don’t Write Paper Journals Anymore

Although it does feel kind of poetically romantic to write in long hand daily, this habit hasn’t been serving me in the best way. There are a couple of reasons for this.

1. Unless I slow down, my handwriting is illegible, so much so that I struggle to read what I’ve written back to myself.

2. The speed at which I can write a considerable number of words is vastly greater when typing on the computer. By typing I’m also training myself to write better quality content for readers in the future. Effectively creating a double win.

No More Spotify/Movies/Pocket App/Documentaries/Daily Instagram

Object consciousness as Eckhart Tolle refers to it, is a state of being attached to the various phenomena in existence. Conversations, media, etc (essentially ‘input’).

With the intention of connecting more to the ‘formless consciousness’ or ‘space consciousness’ as he refers to it (fancy names for being present and in your body) I’ll be eliminating the above vices from my life.

At one point in 2018, I tried eliminating Spotify but it didn’t quite work out. I tried to go cold turkey on music and that was too extreme on my part. Now, I’m giving myself the license to listen to three different songs each month.

Highly Limited: YouTube, Podcasts, Songs, and Articles

I’ve set a permanent ban on YouTube for all days of the week. Meanwhile, the following sites has been blocked on the weekend: Gmail, Facebook, Reddit. I’ll be deleting Pocket so the number of articles I read is going to be greatly reduced.

Meanwhile, I’ve unsubscribed from nearly all my newsletter subscriptions. I’ve got my friends list on Facebook down to 100.

I love the simplicity that brings to my life.

  • YouTube Videos to Watch in 2019: None (if you feel the need: 3x per month)
  • Podcasts/Interviews to Listen to in 2019: None (if you feel the need: 1x per month)
  • Songs to Listen to in 2019: 3x per month
  • Articles to read in 2019: 10–30x per month (120–360x for the year) (I’ll be keeping a log of the articles I read).

The reason why I’m going so nuclear on deleting these vices, isn’t so I become ‘more productive’. It’s simply so that I have less stuff in my head. So that I can focus on being instead of learning. One of the reasons why I’ve developed neck issues, is because I’ve overburdened my nervous system with too information over the last 4 years.

I’ve read 200 books, watched more than 1000 videos, and likely read more than a thousand articles. This voracious consumption of mine started out with the innocent desire to learn more and become a more aware individual. In time though, it snowballed into a monster of its own making, leaving me feeling like I *need to consume* more to learn more, when really a bigger part of leading a good life comes back down to *unlearning* and being fine without *adding”.

I don’t regret the amount of time I spent burying myself in digital and literary consumption. It’s made me a better writer, reader, and thinker — I just could have done with a little bit of damage control. Thankfully now, I’m glad to say that I’ve got a lot better at the art of learning without overtaxing myself.

Small Discoveries

Walk As Often As You Can With Your Vivo Trainers

It’s funny how much more present I feel walking in them. I notice a remarkable increase in groundedness (I feel more connected to what’s beneath me and naturally more stable internally).

When You Walk, Tilt Your Feet At A 30–45 Degree Angle To Reduce The Pressure On Your Heels And Activate More Of Your Glutes

For some odd reason, I’d always presumed that you need to walk with your feet straight. But in fact, this has been contributing to my heel fat pad issues (funnily enough I realised this on the TENTH last day of my Vipassana retreat.

Use The Words ‘I’ And ‘My’ Less Often

Pay attention to how frequently people use these words in conversation. A heavy emphasis on these labels, in some respects, reflects the level of identification a person has with their ‘story’ and ‘ego’.

Breathe Through Your Body

Breathe through your belly, heels, knees, and feet and balls. Notice the knots in your neck, solar plexus, and belly that ensue as a result of any resistance/s to the present moment. It’s the backwards way to realign yourself with the nature of reality.

Care Less. About everything

Not in an apathetic or nihilistic way. But in a way that represents your trust in nature. Care less about your growth. Your journey. Your story. Your past. Your future. And the world. It’s in your nature to want the best for myself. But care, is in a sense, a low-level virtue.

It doesn’t solve anything on its own. In short, ‘care’ can often be a misnomer for giving too many fucks. Form is constantly changing. Why care about it so much? It’s transient. Do what feels natural without the care but with a sense of freedom and you’ll paradoxically be more likely to get what ‘you want’ anyway.

Take Weekends Off

Be normal in some respects. Don’t work 6–8 hours day on these days as you often did in 2018. Limit it to a max of 3, either in the morning or late at night. Make your weekend, for the most part (particularly on Sunday) a blank canvas.

Buy Less Stuff and Experiment Less

Overall thoughts: A lot of the things I did, and a lot of the tools I used in previous years, are going to be phased out. Over the last two years, the amount of items I would purchase items each month through Amazon and eBay has been mind-boggling.

Client Work

I noticed how much angst working gave me in 2018, because I’d previously decided at the start of the year I won’t be working for anyone. Paradoxically, by now being okay with working for a client this year, I might just end up not working for anyone.

Either way works.

Adventures this Year

1. Experiencing Heart Meditation (9/10)

2. Going on a blind date (9/10)

3. Going on a trekking adventure (8/10)

4. Taking care of a cat for a week (6/10)

5. Getting hammock therapy (6/10)

6. Experiencing Zen Meditation (9/10)

7. Experiencing LSD (10/10)

8. Experiencing Ecstatic Dancing (7/10)

9. Doing a Live Drawing Class (8/10)

10. Going to a Sound Bath (5/10)

11. Going to a Bodybuilding Show (8/10)

12. Doing Falun Gong (10/10)

13. Trying Tantra Dance (6/10)

14. Going to the Shard (1/10)

15. Mens San Pedro retreat (10/10)

16. Breath workshop (8/10)

17. Going to a Kareoke (8/10)

18. Tried Reiki (8/10)

Chasing fun, exciting experiences isn’t something that resonates with me in the way that it did a couple of years ago. Naturally, I’ll be fine with doing just 12 things in 2019.

2018 Travels Abroad

100 Days Abroad — 4 Countries

  • Seaford, UK, April — Apr 1, 2018 (1 day) (6/10)
  • Berlin, Germany, April — Apr 12–17, 2018 (6 days) (6/10)
  • Caernarfon, UK — May 5–7, 2018 (3 days) (7/10)
  • Tetouan, Morocco — Jul 4–11, 2018 (8 days) (8/10)
  • Bath, UK — Aug 25–26, 2018 (2 days) (10/10)
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand — Oct 14–31st Dec, 2018 (80 days) (10/10)

Final Thoughts on Different Areas of Life

Consciousness and Inner Peace

Around the month of August, I discovered a new body movement practice, a form of Qi Qong, called Falun Gong. There’s a group class every Saturday at the park close to my home. After every session, I always feel incredibly light and at peace. It’s something I feel like I’ve missed out on since moving to Chiang Mai, Thailand (something I’ll take more about at the end of this post).

I did more floats this year than usual (14x) and I benefited from them. I’ve found my max to be two sessions per month. When I go once a week, the novelty which I really like about it seems to go away and it starts to feel more like ‘work’ rather a ‘pleasure’.

I didn’t track my daily habits this year with much consistency (did too many experiments for that to be possible) but I do know that I didn’t meditate every day of the year. I probably missed about 2 months of meditation if I had to guess and in retrospect that’s a shame. I’m sure my year would have been quite a bit better had I meditated more consistently and for longer periods of time (30–60 mins).

It would have also been good to do more reflections on death at the cemetery near my home. This is something I’ll be looking to do more often in 2019. Few things like meditating on death in a graveyard, however morbid that may sound, humbles me like nothing else.

More and more, I think it’ll be good for me to be less ‘spiritual’ in a sense and to become more ‘material’. I’ve spent a lot of my time delving into the existential and for me to become more whole, it’ll be good to dedicate more of my energies to being more practical.

How do I aim to make that a reality?

I’m not too sure yet.

I don’t want to have the goal of becoming ‘awakened’. It’s something that will happen or it won’t happen. One big change in my life as a result of me diving into Falun Gong is to consider letting go of my attachments.

Discipline, Self-Quantification, and Habit Management

Being able to quantify your performance across the different areas of your life sounds like a tough job. But after three years of iteration, I do feel like I have reached a place where it’s no longer something I need to work on refining much more.

2019 will be the first year where everything isn’t as messy or experimental in my life. I will have one of the strongest foundations in my life in place. I’ve gotten exactly to where I want to, after working on this area of my life so hard (accidentally I must say — because it was never my intention — it’s just something I loved doing and gravitated towards).

It’s not something a lot of people would understand the value of. The trouble is, it can become taxing. I still haven’t figured out how much energy it’s sucking away from my life, I hope not too much. I don’t think it’s too much. The time for trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work is over. I now know what works, and I know what doesn’t work for me. If there is anything that comes to fruition, it likely won’t be a revolution, just a small slight evolution.

And I’m excited about what all this hard work is going to mean for me in 2019. It’ll be the first year where everything isn’t as messy or experimental in my life.

It’s like building a team of silent artificial intelligence’s that help you live a better life. I have 7 sheets, so you could say I have 7 people on my team. I worked really hard on systems in 2018. I would guess at the expense of building a business in time. I really, really don’t want to work at all on systems for the rest of my life. At least, not with the excruciating amount of attention to detail and diligence I did in 2018.

I worked hard on systems and self-quantification in 2018. I would guess at the expense of building a business as quickly as I could. I no longer want to work on systems with the excruciating amount of attention to detail and diligence I did in 2018. I really do feel like I’ve mastered this area of my life in a way few people ever have. I saw a reddit post where someone asked, “If you die and go to heaven what stats would you want to know?” — that question made me instantly realize that I won’t have to die to know the stats for my life.

I think maybe my desire to work on this area of my life came from this obsessive need to control my reality, as Ben mentioned, but now more than ever, I realize that this need to control my reality through willfulness, has been harnessed in an ultimately healthy and ingenious way.

Health

Towards the end of the year, I let go of being a vegetarian and started incorporating a bit more meat into my diet. It felt good. Moving to 2019, I’ll be eating more beef and lamb. Interestingly, I always feel like absolute crap after I eat chicken or turkey, and I’m sure Ben will tell me that’s nocebo ha!

Over the course of a couple of weeks after getting back on the meat train, I noticed my muscles looked better. I also realized vegan protein powder really is shit. I’ll be going back to whey isolate — I think one of the reasons why I didn’t feel as ‘strong’ this year is partly because of my reliance on this vegan protein crap. Whey beats vegan protein any day of the week.

Finances

I earned less money than I did last year and I felt the effects, having spent more money travelling than I did compared to any other year. Living on less than an average of 1k per month while you’re leading a travel lifestyle, and investing money into a business, is kind of stressful haha!

My income at the moment is a trade-off. I’ve chosen to take the patient long-route to financial freedom, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ideal Day

In no particular order:

1H Breakfast and Shower
1H-2H of Meditation
1H of Stretching
1H Reading/Listening to an Audiobook 
1H Journaling, Checking Emails, and Admin
1H Family Time
1H Walking
4–6H of Work 
1–3H With Friends or Social Groups/Event/Home Entertainment

Question-Based Review

1. What movie genre would best describe this year of my life?

- A movie about big narcissistic desires turned into ashes so that I could rediscover the simplicity and power of the present moment.

2. What two or three major themes kept recurring?

  • Loss
  • Experimentation
  • Grinding
  • Pressure

3. What are the 4 experiences I’m most thrilled about?

1. Launching Growth Notes (Site, PDFs, and Video Poem)

2. Living in Thailand for 3 Months

3. Experiencing San Pedro

4. Experiencing LSD

More than that though, I think what I’m most proud of achieving is realising that whatever I experience or achieve on the outside is in no way near close to the kind of internal shifts I can experience, however trite that may sound.

In that respect, I chose the above 4 experiences because they created a positive internal shift that will last for a lifetime — they weren’t ephemeral.

4. What could I have done better this year?

  • I think the way I approached my goals was a bit diametrically opposed. On one hand I wanted to build a business. On the other hand, I wanted to make a shitload of cake via Cryptocurrency. I ended up making lots of cash, then greed got hold of me, and I lost it all. Then I held on to blame about it for too long — that’s no longer the case. I was like someone chasing two rabbits at the same time, only to find myself catching none. Luckily, one of the rabbits died, after the first 3 months of the year, and that gave me the impetus to focus exclusively on Growth Notes for the rest of the year. Thankfully I’m now using a much lighter framework for goals.
  • Being less hard on myself.

Summary

This was a unique year, one where I burnt boats behind me, where I told myself, I must do this and that. In some ways, it was a catastrophic year emotionally speaking due to money lost gambling. Through that however, I came to realise what I really wanted to do with my life more clearly.

Naturally, this is probably one of the most life-changing years I’ll have career wise.