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Tansey Time

Films, IPAs, Podcasts

Yoga, Seneca, and Time Management

 

“Life is long enough and our allotted portion generous enough for our most ambitious projects if we invest it all carefully.”

-Seneca, “On The Shortness of Life”

Like many, I struggle with turning off the television. As early as two months ago my day comprised of going to work, returning home, watching Netflix for a few hours, perhaps binging on YouTube, and of course sleep. Too much time was spent watching Netflix and binging YouTube. This is not to say that these are necessarily bad things; binging on Stranger Things last month was very fulfilling! Rather, the problem related to the bulk of time spent on these activities.

When thinking about the best way to spend one’s time, it can be helpful to view time as a currency to be spent deliberately in the same way that one would spend money. Similar to money, time is a resource that is in finite supply. Unlike money, time is a non-renewable resource that everyone eventually runs out of. This idea of time as a currency was popularized by the Stoic Philosopher Seneca. While there is a lot of value in knowing and understanding Seneca’s views, applying this advice has its challenges.

This week I discovered a way that may improve my frugality with time – I joined a yoga studio. The initial resolution I made was to attend a class once a day for the entirety of my trial membership (that lasts 20 days). I have kept that commitment up for six days now. That said, I will be breaking this commitment one day later in the week due to other priorities. The experience has motivated me to reprioritize exercise as an essential part of each day.

In this brief experience I’ve had so far, adding yoga classes to my routine has improved my time management in a couple of ways. Each class is structured at a specific time forcing participants to plan out their free time. Each participant must register in advance and arrive on time; these constraints are helpful for defeating procrastination. Personally, I have noticed that yoga has helped me set new standards of what a typical day should look like. Personal experience tells me that if there is nothing planned on the calendar, I default to watching Netflix and YouTube. Under these conditions, if a social engagement or plan presents itself with even a modest level of intrigue, I’ll say yes instantly because “I have nothing better to do.”

Having committed to attending yoga classes, it is a lot harder to yes to new plans. Previously, on nights where there is nothing on the calendar, I would say yes to virtually anything. However, by incorporating hobby that is fulfilling into my daily routine, I am a lot more deliberative about what I do with my weeknights.

In University, a teaching assistance gave my class advice on effectively writing an essay with limited space. He instructed that “the truly great essays will be so full of good content that we will have to make sacrifices to keep within the word count.” It may be valuable to apply this to how we view our time. Packing your free time with fulfilling activities (and a fulfilling hobby) means that diverging from your routine requires a difficult choice between two things that are both awesome – this is a good problem to have.

References

“Stoicism – On the Shortness of Life”  a YouTube video by Fight Mediocrity

“Tim Ferriss,” a podcast by Design Matters with Debbie Millman featuring Tim Ferriss

“On the Shortness of Life,” by Seneca

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It’s possible for smart people to disagree

“A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.”

-David Foster Wallace, 2005 Kenyon Commencement Speech

Back in University, I was fortunate to have a Political Science professor who opened my eyes to the complexities of the modern world. He would spend an entire lecture convincing us to adopt a certain worldview until we were wholeheartedly convinced, and than with a smile he would conclude by saying: “next day, I’m going to argue that everything I told you today is completely wrong.” He left me with a simple message: it is possible for two intelligent people to arrive at completely opposite conclusions. If two smart people cannot come to an agreement, would it not make sense for us to approach complex subjects like politics and governance with humility? Given the nature of current political discourse this message is now more relevant than ever.

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

-Bertrand Russell

One problem with party politics and the political spectrum, is that they lead us to paint others with a broad brush. Choosing a party to vote for is a complicated decision with hundreds of different factors to consider. Like any large decision in life, when voting its perfectly natural to deliberate before making a conclusion. Being less than 100% confident in the decision made should be a natural response because politics deals with complex issues that don’t always have an answer.

 

The political spectrum is troubling in that it arbitrarily lumps together groups of people. For instance, I consider myself very left-wing when it comes to social issues, in that I believe people should be free to act as they choose so long as they are not causing harm to others. In turn, I am right-wing when it comes to economic issues, in that I frequently get frustrated when I hear about wasteful public sector spending and have a strong belief in the free-market. If I vote Liberal I get chastised for being fiscally irresponsible and if I vote Conservative I’ll get chastised for being social irresponsible. When I was younger, I was taught to see tolerance as a very important virtue. I hold that everyone should be treated with respect regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or political views. Perhaps, we should stop forgetting about the latter of these.

3 Reasons I Love Podcasts

My gateway drug into the podcasts was undoubtedly Freakonomics Radio with Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt. Along the way, others came along that continued to intrigue me including the Ted Radio Hour and Philosophy Bites. However, my love for the genre truly exploded during the summer of 2016 when I discovered StartUp. The first season of StartUp tracks Alex Bloomberg, one of the producers of This American Life and Planet Money, who hypothesized that we have reached a golden age of audio and decided to start a podcast company. Bloomberg takes advantage of his own story as an opportunity to track the experience of starting a business.

It is through listening to Bloomberg’s firsthand experiences on the making of podcasts that catapulted my interest in the medium as a whole. Having listened to countless hours of podcasts since the time I listened to StartUp I’ve compiled a list of reasons why I continue to listen to them.

1. Audio is a mean between reading and watching a film

Reading requires imagination. While an author can do her best to create an image of a great city through the words she uses, reading requires work for the reader to build that image and decide for himself what the city looks like. The enjoyment that comes from this type of intellectual work is often lost on a medium such as film where the viewer is shown that image directly.

Films bring stories to life. One way they do so is through their actors, real people who bring our favourite characters to life. As an audience member, we become attached to these performances and develop relationships with the characters portrayed. Furthermore, a great film will effectively incorporate music to generate an emotional response not possible through writing.

I say that podcasts are a mean between these two mediums because they all of the elements mentioned. Like books, by lacking a visual element, podcasts often put the listener into situations where she must build images of the thing being described.  In the same way as watching a film, podcasts allow a listener to build a relationship with the characters or hosts.

As for music, many of the higher end podcasts feature a powerful mix of music and dialogue. Serial has excellent music which I hypothesize had a significant role to play in its success. Another example is found in the fourth season of StartUp in an episode titled ‘The Diversification of Worry.’ This episode features an incredibly moving interview where the owners open up about their anxieties of being business owners with a soft moving melody in the background.

2. A commuter’s paradise

I discover a lot of my favourite podcasts on the road. Commuting may be the most dreaded task of your day, but it doesn’t need to be. You’re probably all too familiar with the Netflix binge (just watch Stranger Things and you’ll understand). Now take yourself back to 2013 when you would spend hours thinking about that exciting new episode of Breaking Bad. Now imagine having something you enjoy as much as a new episode of your favourite show, bundled with the task that you dislike the most. Suddenly the task isn’t as bad as it was. Podcasts, in my case, have done wonders in making commuting a much more tolerable activity.

3. The amount of learning is staggering

My friend Bret laughs because I sound like a broken record player with Freakonomics references. The hours I have clocked listening to that podcast have had a very meaningful impact on my worldview. On Freakonomics, host Stephen Dubner and his frequent collaborator Steven Levitt take an economic approach to a wide variety of subject areas such as online dating and emotionally dealing with failure. Eventually you begin to understand common themes in their understanding of things. Frequently they will make reference to concepts that are fundamental to their understanding of the world. For instance, they will consistently mention that one of their fundamental assumptions about the world is that “people respond to incentives.” Through emphasis on this core belief, Dubner and Levitt are able to theorize in many different subject areas.

When listening to podcasts, you will find that you are able to challenge yourself through exposure to various worldviews and perspectives and gradually build an understanding for how they may apply to your everyday life in ways you never knew before. I can say confidently that much of my current worldview has been developed through immersing myself in the worldviews and understandings of the podcasts I have listened to.

Conclusion

I am currently expanding my podcast library, so if you are an avid podcast listener please tell me about your favourites!

If your first getting into podcasts and do not know where to start, I strongly recommend listening to the first season of Serial. This particular podcast made the podcasting genre what it is today and the episodes are relatively short making it an easy podcast to begin listening to.

“Grown-Ups”

Upon scrolling through the Netflix options of the night (a process that is often very time-consuming and emotionally draining) I decided to watch Joe Rogan’s 2005 comedy special. I remember watching Fear Factor years ago and it was funny to hear him comment on how crazy of an idea that show was. He made jokes about the insanity of George W. Bush getting re-elected (coming from 2017, I enjoyed this). During my favourite segment of the bit, Rogan discusses how his view of “grown-ups” changed over the years.

When you’re a kid, it is common to have a belief that all of the adults or “grown-ups” in have it figured it out. They take charge, they drive cars, they have jobs, and they have a confidence about them that leads you to believe they know what they are talking about. And as Rogan hilariously puts it, this belief continues until your twenty-five and you go through the checkout at the grocery store and the cashier asks: “would you like a bag with that, sir?” At that point your response is: “wait what? I’m a sir?” Out of nowhere, you quickly come to a realization that you are now one of those so-called “grown-ups.” As someone in their mid-twenties right now, this feels all too true.

The point of the joke is that no one really knows what they are talking about when they say they have it figured out. I have found this all too real at times where various figures in my life have all given me different advice. Really this is a profound realization many of us have upon reaching an age of maturity. We are all faking it to some extent. I find it helpful to know that people of all types at some point or another wrestle with this same insecurity.

Blogging Goals 2017

About a month ago I started this blog impulsively as a means to teach myself about internet design, internet marketing, and blogging. Since then I have periodically written new entries and gradually overcame writers block. The biggest challenge I am having now is narrowing the focus of the blog to a specific category. After all, I have a wide range of interests and would find it difficult to narrow in on one specific area.

I did some thinking and decided that narrowing in on specific topics is not something I am going to do at the present moment. I’ve decided that the purpose of this blog is to practice regularly writing out content without constraint. Eventually the plan will be to take the lessons I’ve learned from this blog and start another blog with a more predesigned purpose. For now, my goal will be do produce a minimum of three posts per week on any range of topics that are of interest including: Podcasts, Ted Talks, and film.

Psychology of Entrepreneurship: A Review

Meet Tod Maffin and Michael DeVenney. Both of them are entrepreneurs. Both of them experienced being overworked. Both of them suffered serious personal consequences as a result. ‘The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship’ sheds light on an important topic: the psychological toll entrepreneurship can have on people.

I have experienced seeing the entrepreneurial buzz on my own social media accounts. Motivational Mondays, quotes of the week, and inspirational videos of Tony Robbins and Richard Branson have covered my feed. And the message of these postings is often quite clear: work until you drop. I remember watching Elon Musk’s video where he discusses the importance of working long hours. I used to watch this to get motivation and would think of myself as lazy for only putting in 50 hours.

This podcast turns the romantic, entrepreneurial story on its head through its cast of characters who deal with alcoholism and depression. Unlike the movies, these hardships cannot be erased by achieving new levels of business success – rather they are symptoms of it. There is a very real trade-off that comes from hustling every hour of the day. Tod Maffin realized this, and decided that even though business is important, achieving a work-life balance is more important. He admits that he may not grow his company as quickly with this approach, but he is a lot happier.

Business-owners like the late Steve Jobs and Elon Musk notoriously worked day and night to build their companies up. Its very clear that this kind of work ethic can lead to great business success, and I wouldn’t be so bold as to say that this lifestyle is wrong.  What I would say is that this lifestyle does have some serious and unavoidable consequences that should be considered.

‘The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship’ was an episode of the Risk Takers podcast in association with the Globe and Mail.

FOMO

The podcast StartUp documents Alex Bloomberg’s pitches to Silicon Valley investor Chris Sacca.  To give a little context, Chris Sacca was one of the early investors in a few of startups you may have heard of – Twitter, Uber, and Instagram to name a few.  So as you might expect, Sacca has heard countless pitches from aspiring entrepreneurs. According to Sacca, when of best qualities a pitch can have is a concept known as ‘FOMO’ otherwise known as “the Fear of Missing Out.” Even for a billionaire investor like Sacca, he finds great pain over his choice to not invest in AirBnB when the opportunity presented itself.

Technology has created an unprecedented level of excess.  Consider the opportunities that social networking sites like Facebook, MeetUp and Tinder provide us with. These sites provide access to an endless abundance of people who you can meet at any given time. These are great innovations that in theory should make connection easier and easier! However, there are only 24 hours in a day and technology has not managed to erase that fact. Saying yes to someone, means saying no to someone else.

It’s also interesting to think about innovations like the phone, the internet and the airplane which have made it easier and easier to be anywhere in the world at any given time. These innovations provide access to 1000s of different places while still keeping up to date with friends and family members! However, technology has not yet permitted us to be two places at once.  By saying yes to somewhere, you are saying no to somewhere else.

In a very interesting talk at Google (of which I plan on writing a separate blog about), David Evans addresses FOMO and makes some one very significant point:

“You know this FOMO thing, the fear of missing out? Of course you are going to miss out! Most of you isn’t going to happen. If you’re eleven, 88% of you ain’t happening.”

-David Evans, Designing Your Life

To give some context to this quote, when Evans is speaking of ‘you’ he is speaking of the different possible people you can become depending on the choices you make for your life. If you are like me, this is an idea that that will sound like common sense when you hear it, but not a common thought. This is a thought that is liberating in my eyes, because it acknowledges that in the face of a difficult choice, you are going to ‘miss out’ regardless of the decision that is made.

It seems appropriate to close this blog with a quote from Pete Best: “I’m happier than I would have been with The Beatles.” If FOMO was a word in the dictionary, I think a picture of Pete Best would be a very appropriate addition. It is hard to imagine the sting he must have felt when seeing his former bandmates become one of the arguably the most iconic band of all time. Yet, life goes on and he’s perfectly content with himself.  ‘Missing out’ is a natural part of life that cannot be avoided so we must learn to accept it instead.

Related Resources:
The Surprising Science of Happiness, Ted Talk by Dan Gilbert
Designing Your Life, Talks at Google by David Evans

 

Understanding Minimalism

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer” -Jim Carrey

Right now its 1:38am I am looking around my crowded room and see clothes on the ground, a junk drawer filled with random crap, and two bookshelves containing books I haven’t so much as touched in over 5 years. The guilty feeling I have about the current state of my bedroom is brought on by a documentary I just watched titled Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. This is an appropriate watch as we head into the Christmas season; this documentary brings to light how our busy, consumerist lives may be traded in for a life that is much simpler and stress-free.

Minimalism can be thought of as a philosophy of life that focuses on deliberate, intentional choice in how we spend our time, money and space. The cast of characters interviewed in this film fly in the face of the dominate consumerist paradigm that has everyone running for the malls throughout the Christmas season only to find themselves with more junk then they need and a fun credit card bill to pay off once January hits.

One of my takeaways from this documentary was that consumption itself is not the problem.  The problem is unnecessary consumption.  For instance, in our society people tend to put great value on owning a larger-than-life home and a Mercedes Benz in the driveway.  The road to acquiring these things involves a lot of debt and working very long hours (which will often be accompanied by a stressful commute), and debt as well.  It is not to say that these things are bad in it of themselves; the larger issue is that we as a society often fail to recognize or even consider the costs involved to accumulating these things.

In my view, the minimalists interviewed in this documentary have lives of abundance of one thing: time.  They spend less time working unhappy jobs, less time commuting, and less time in unhappy relationships. Being a minimalist means surrounding yourself only with the items and people that serve a purpose and discarding the rest.  Check out the documentary, I would give it an 8 out of 10.

 

Mr. Nobody: A film about choice

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I first watched The Matrix when I was about ten years old; I didn’t get much sleep that night.  It was hard not to think about this thought that everything in our world is just an illusion.  It was an idea that captivated me.  Now twenty-five years old, I must admit that Mr. Nobody had the exact same effect on me.  

We all face choices every day.  We’ve all had the thought cross our head, what if we had decided to go left instead of right, how would our lives be different today?  The core of Mr. Nobody is this thought about how decisions shape our lives.  The film chronicles various parallel universes where the character of Nemo finds himself on very different paths based on the decisions he makes.

One of the best parts of the film is an occurrence where Nemo makes a small gesture that has a huge impact on his life.  Nemo makes a snarky remark as a teenager to the girl who in other realities is the love of his life.  This leads to a series of events where he runs into her at the train station years later and finds they are basically strangers.  This scene captured a very real human experience – the very scary reality that the first impressions we have on people can have an enormous impact on our lives.   

The core of the film revolves around one choice Nemo must make at the young age of nine. His mother and father decide to split up and he must decide to stay with his father in the UK or move with his mother to Montreal.   It is at that moment that the child version of Nemo is the architect of his life.  The film explores what Nemo’s life would be like if he married three different women.  In the case of each decision, the outcomes produced were all nearly impossible to predict, leading the audience to the troubling truth that even with all of the facts, there is no way of truly knowing which is the right path to take.

In a modern day and age we like to think about how privileged we are to have so much in abundance.  Jean-Paul Sartre once said “we are condemned to be free.”  While common-sense states that more freedom and more choice must necessarily be a good thing, there is also an emotion associated with such luxuries – anxiety.  In a world where choice is available to us, if we decide wrongly we also must take the burden of responsibility on ourselves.  In my own life, as a twenty-five year old, I have been faced with such choices and the burden of deciding has at times been overwhelming.  Mr. Nobody was such a special movie to me because it brought these issues to light in a film that managed to be visually specular and emotionally compelling.  9.5 out of 10.

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