In Search For Balance

Looking for balance in life, work, and relationships.

An Ambitious Failure

The decision to stop publishing daily came incredibly naturally. I considered it many times before, often in truly crisis situations. But I didn't give up. It always felt like there was something I still needed to write about.

On April 1st I went out for a bike ride. At one point, I left my bike in the forest and started climbing up a hill. Once I reached the top, I knew; it was time to stop. I've said all I wanted to say in a shorter form. Let's be honest - writing is just a hobby - I can't spend more than 30 minutes on writing per day. So, keeping up the daily schedule would mean almost always short, brief, unpolished posts.

My family was shocked. My friends were shocked. Most of them couldn't believe I just 'ended' it like that. I was supposed to keep going, reach a milestone (2 years or 1000 posts), and then, maybe, just maybe, I would end.

Sometimes we get these tiny nudges, cues to do something. Was this all a snap decision? Definitely. Was it long in the making? Surely. Was it a good one? That's yet to be found out.

At some point during this 683 day long journey, I started to feel like my writing was getting more polished, more professional, sort of. Maybe it was the ever-growing total word-count, maybe it was the twice-a-month-email-from-a-stranger-congratulating-me-on-my-blog. As always, ego grows under the right conditions, and this time it definitely did.

All of this was mostly an illusion. A trick of the ego. Growth perceived outgrowing real growth. Nonetheless, I think I objectively made some quite good progress along the way. I don't cringe at my first posts, but the improvements are certainly easy to spot. Keep in mind English is my second language.

Fanciness is an obstruction

When I decided to end daily writing, I had this grant vision of building a solid writing and publishing workflow. I bought iA Writer for my iPad, created a content calendar in Notion, and moved my blog to Ghost. I said to myself: I'm a real writer now. I have become a professional, so I need to use the same tools as professionals, have a dedicated editing process, have fancy sub-headers, and all that stuff.

I didn't write a single sentence in iA Writer.

Something was just... off. Maybe it was because I had a separate app for writing I wouldn't open very often, or maybe I've gotten so used to Standard Notes that the habit didn't translate to a different tool.

The only post I actually finished during this period, The Burden of Privileges was written in Standard Notes, and then copied to Ghost. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Looking back, this reminds me of when I started getting into photography. I watched tons of photography vlogs, spent hours on gear-related websites, and just thought 'I'll be a real photographer once I get a good camera'. Even though I had a functional compact camera laying around, I 'postponed' a lot of ideas until I saved enough money to buy a DSLR. How fucking stupid.

Guess I didn't know the mantra 'the best camera is the one you have with you' back then.

Tragically professional

'Professionalism' is a made up term. Mostly, it's used as a way to keep power in the hands of the established. What level of knowledge, what amount of reputation does one need to attain to become professional? Is there a metric? Never heard of one.

You can be bad at something after years of practice. You can be terribly good at something after one try. Does that mean you're not professional? Not for real?

Truth is, the 'seriousness' of our word is a product of our own ambition. We cancelled the space for fun, for play. All that's left - is just the strive for professionalism. For plaques, markers of success.

Recognition of ambition.

How to be professional? Do your best work. Forget about the titles.

--

It's good to be back.

The Burden of Privileges

Last night, right after finishing work, I sat down to read the day's newsletters. The usual stuff; Seth Godin's daily blog, Subtle Maneuvers, Subtraction's latest post, and Jason Fried's latest post about changes at Basecamp.

I glanced through it quickly. But one paragraph caught my eye instantly:

No more societal and political discussions at Basecamp. Today's social and political waters are especially choppy. Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant. You shouldn't have to wonder if staying out of it means you're complicit, or wading into it means you're a target. These are difficult enough waters to navigate in life, but significantly more so at work. It's become too much. It's a major distraction. It saps our energy, and redirects our dialog towards dark places. It's not healthy, it hasn't served us well. And we're done with it at Basecamp.

At first, I thought: oh well, I'm not the only person tired by politics. The never-ending, relentlessly unstoppable train wreck that political discourse is these days. Hell, I get my news off of Wikipedia, I don't own a smartphone. I am very much, and always will be, in the middle ground. Jason and David sure must be tired, just like me. It's time to focus on work, not fool around.

It's easy to push away problems that do have direct influence on you. It's easy to say "I'm out" when being out doesn't make your life harder. And for white millionaire men like Jason and David, it certainly does not. Things go bonkers in the US? They can just move somewhere else. Buy a new citizenship. Buy a fucking private island. David still holds Danish citizenship - what a lucky guy. Options, sir, options.

But what constitutes this obscene level of optionality? Privilege. The worst kind of privilege. The one you're born with. The color of your skin, your place of birth, your gender.

It's so fucking easy to be a white man (speaking from personal experience). Like, there's nothing we can't do. We get paid better. We get more time and space to work on ourselves. Investors trust us more easily. Our opinion is more important. The balance of power is clearly and unapologetically tipped towards white men. Anyone denying this is benefiting from keeping the scheme running.

There are two things we can do: keep enjoying these privileges - keep grabbing all there is to grab and use the power bestowed upon you by centuries of abuse. Or we can stop. Say: we've had enough. We've had enough of enjoying our unjust power.

Banning discourse doesn't solve anything. It's not like issues - issues some people's livelihoods depend on - will disappear. They will get pushed aside, marginalized, even by the very people they impact most. A responsible human being, and a responsible human company would create space for and facilitate discourse. It is possible to exchange opposing views with grace, respect, and understanding. Ever attended a debate club in high school?

Sure, don't spend an important status meeting on politics. But banning discussion - it just cements your privileged position - and keeps the scheme going. Create a dedicated space, a dedicated time, where in a civil and time limited manner people can be honest. It is a responsibility shared between all of us. But especially all of us white men.

When you act in absolutes you create more absolutes. It's a dangerous game, friendo.

It's hard to do the right thing when not doing the right thing is so fucking comfortable. When it means more time spent on Basecamp the company, more money in the bank for it's founders. Tired of politics? Just ban them. You own the place.

It's great to know that DHH doesn't fall along the right/left division. I do too. I agree with a surprisingly significant amount of Trump's policies. But I also think he is a racist moron. But, tell me - how do you form these carefully weighed and deliberately shaped views? By engaging in meaningful discourse, wherever it happens to be. At home, at work, at your weekly group run. If we want people to stop dividing themselves all the time, we need to let them talk. Let them hear the other side. The counterargument. The opposing view. We shouldn't just let them - we should encourage them.

Only through this excruciatingly tiring and tirelessly slow process of meaningful discourse can we solve anything, ever.

In a time when the majority of our human interaction happens through the remote work we do each day, it is immoral, to say the least, to prohibit people from doing the most important work of their lives - discourse & empathy.

This cowardly and marginalizing decision enabled by the very mechanisms of injustice people need to argue against, has made me reconsider my support for Basecamp and my usage of their products. I will stop recommending Basecamp to people I work with, and I'll stop paying for my own accounts. In capitalism we vote with money and exposure - and I can't vote for keeping the scheme of injustice running.

So, yes. Privileges are a burden. Because if you have them, you need to get your shit together and stop fucking around.

This Is My Last Post

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Yes, you've read that correctly.

After 683 days of writing daily, I'm done.

For a while now I've felt like I reached a plateau. Like I hit a ceiling. Writing is not my main job, so I can't commit more time daily than I already do. Thus, my writing (if posted daily) won't get any better.

There are many stories I'd still like to tell. Many ideas yet to be told. I'm not stopping writing completely, but just slowing down. I've been building a solid writing workflow on the side, trying to polish my writing. But all of that requires time. I need time to edit, to re-write, to make my writing as good as it can be.

Publishing daily has taught me a lot. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity. And for y'all sticking around.

I'll still continue writing. Still going to write daily, but not publish daily. Probably a couple times a month.

Thank you. Let's see where this new journey takes us.

Inspiration

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I often encounter people saying 'oh, I need to be inspired'. Or 'I'm in desperate need for inspiration, because I can't find it'.

Truth is, inspiration is everywhere, anywhere, and at all times. One can be inspired by anything, even the most boring thing out there.

Inspiration doesn't need to be found. It is there. All we need to do is open up. Create space for experience. For symbiosis.

One more reason to do less, have less.

So It Goes

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In the magnificent novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut uses the phrase 'so it goes' 106 times.

If you're unfamiliar with Vonnegut's brilliant, piquant, sarcastic style, this might sound like nothing special. But, if you do, you understand how important of a stylistic device this phrase is. Vonnegut puts the phrase usually after a death or a tragic event happens in the book.

Here's a beautiful example:

The correct answer turned out to be this: 'You stake a guy out on an anthill in the desert-see? He's face upward, and you put honey all over his balls and pecker, and you cut off his eyelids so he has to stare at the sun till he dies.' So it goes.

Another one, probably my favorite:

On the eighth day, the forty-year-old hobo said to Billy, 'This ain't bad. I can be comfortable anywhere.'
'You can?' said Billy.
On the ninth day, the hobo died. So it goes. His last words were, 'You think this is bad? This ain't bad.'

Some people have skulls in their houses to remind them of the fleeting nature of life. Memento mori, that's what they say?

It's good to ask, from time to time, could it all end now? Most likely, it won't. But, if it does, it's better to pass away in peace.

Saying 'so it goes' doesn't imply ignorance. It's simple acceptance of the unchangeable. A coping mechanism? Why not. In the end, it's better to have a coping mechanism, not matter how obscure, than living in denial or blissful ignorance.

Because we have to accept reality to become real, right?

I think I'm going to buy a skull.

Tribalism

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Seth Godin said that tribes are the thing we should be focusing on. In the age of the Internet, we're getting more into labeling each other, but not resonating on a common level.

Tribes can certainly be useful. For example, I'm part of an online community based around tools for thought. It's a tribe of some sort. And I like being part of it. There are definitely common denominators across all the tribe members, but still, in the end, we're all different.

When I hear the term "tribalism", something makes me tick. Tribes mean division. Tribes mean rivalry, enclosure, anti-holism. The path to success leads through unity built on diversity. Not tribalism. Ugh. But, after some more thinking, I started to turn around a bit.

How to build tribes without ignorance?

Just introduce the word reciprocity into common language.

Tribes are how we exist, and how we'll exist for a long time. There's nothing inherently wrong in tribes.

As long as they're humane.

Greatest Country

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I like meeting Americans who think the US is the greatest country in the world. It's always a fun experience. I like meeting Poles who think Poland is the greatest country in the world. It's always a depressing experience.

In both cases there are interesting correlations between age, political beliefs and the belief that our country is the greatest or not.

Young Americans hardly ever believe that. A lot of them got fucked over by the 2008 crisis, post-9/11-paranoia and all that shit. More and more of them seem to believe America is the worst country, at least in the developed world. They want to escape. So they move to Europe, to Canada, to New Zealand, to Asia.

In Poland, the pattern is quite similar. With different nuances, of course. Here, it's more divided among Church-goers and the rest. People deeply entrenched in religion (a particular, perverted genre of religion) view Poland as a "Catholic stronghold", an island of God among a sea of evil. And for that very reason, they believe that Poland is the greatest country in the world. The rest of the population is either ambivalent or wants to move out.

The more people I meet from around the world, the more I'm starting to understand that there's no "greatest" or "worst" country. One can be happy anywhere, anytime. There are places struggling with war, poverty, disease. And it's certainly much harder to find happiness and relief there. But there's no place with no problems.

Let's take Sweden, for example. People from all around the world view it as an example of a rich, egalitarian, well-coordinated, healthy society. That's not fully true. Anyone who watched The Swedish Theory of Love knows this is not case. I wouldn't want to live in Sweden.

Be content with what you have, but do not stop improving it.

Don't Stop Pedaling

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There's this steep ascent near my house I've been trying to conquer on my bike. It's 510 meters long and goes up 70 meters, which results in 13 percent gradient.

Many times in the past year I cycled near it, but never had the courage to actually go up. But, this week, I decided to face the challenge. By now, I've been there three times. Getting slightly better each time, but still need to stop at least two times on the way. It's excruciating.

The most important tip for anyone going up a steep ascent on a bike is this: never stop pedaling. It's the worst thing you can do. You lose momentum, and starting back up will be much harder than just going on. Even if you have to shift to the lowest gear, don't stop. Otherwise, you'll have to get off your bike.

What a beautiful metaphor of life.

I'll never stop pedaling. Even if my legs fall off.

Zettelkasten

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Recently, a new wave of Zettelkasten-based note-taking apps emerged on the market.

If you're familiar with the topic, you definitely heard about Roam, Remnote, and my favorite, Obsidian. The basic concept of these tools is that digital notes get linked together to create a sort-of second brain, a personal wiki, where each note is a "neuron" connected to others.

Oh boy, did I jump into it right when I found it.

Roam was convincing, but ugly and unreliable, so I didn't even try to implement it long-term. But Obsidian? A beautiful, fast, smartly designed, flexible app. As a knowledge-worker and student, this should be a perfect place to take notes, connect them together, see information in context, as it should be. So I spent massive amounts of time building out my second brain. Linking notes together. It felt like I gained a unique superpower. I could think faster, more efficiently, every bit of information I ever needed was right there.

It never stuck for more than three weeks. And I tried this four times at this point. After a while, it always started to feel like a burden. Another system I had to constantly review. Update. Modify. On one hand, it was so frictionless, but on the other, just thinking about the sheer size and complicatedness of my second brain was intimidating to say the least.

I thought to myself: why? Am I so dumb I can't tap into this superpower? Is my thinking too basic for this next-level tool?

Our thinking rate is fixed. Becoming a better thinker requires time and practice. There is no way to "speed up your brain". Gain a superpower. Ha ha.

In the entire concept of tools for thought I personally always encounter a barrier. A point where my system feels to be more than me. It grows and grows and grows. It reaches a place where I can't envision the entirety of it in my own brain. A second brain should be supplemental, not fundamental. If I can't think without my second brain, or my second brain does all the thinking for me, then my primary brain is lost. A state in which I feel extremely uncomfortable, and plainly, unhappy. I feel like I've lost a part of myself.

In terms of digital notes, I always come back to Standard Notes. The most stupidly simple "second brain" out there. Supplemental, not fundamental. Not fancy. Not "feature-rich".

So I'm going to build a real zettelkasten, like the one its creators envisioned. A physical collection of boxes containing real, physical pieces of paper. A collection I can grasp, understand, manipulate in my own brain. And, most importantly, feel.

You get better by doing the work, not by having someone do the work for you.

Tired

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I am super tired right now. Mentally, physically, even emotionally exhausted.

I cycled 50 kilometers this week. Read two books (551 pages, in total). Wrote 2512 words, excluding instant messages. Worked on numerous notes, research projects. Attended 11 hours of meetings and lectures. And I even had time to meet up with a friend.

I am fucking exhausted. Every part of my body is screaming for some rest.

But I'm feeling really good, too. All this exhaustion, all this tiredness, is just a byproduct of my work. It's a sign that I've done something. Whether good or bad - it's not for me to judge. But it's there. Another week of work, of progress?

Tired means progress.

I don't mind being tired.

Power Transfers

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One thing I've been observing lately is how energy transfers itself from person to person.

We sort of do these transfers all day everyday. Every interaction is a transfer of some sort. The more effort you put into an interaction, the more can be shared. So it's easier to share through interactions that naturally require effort, i.e. real-world vs. online interactions. Typing texts requires much less friction, is much less of a challenge than, let's say, a real-world, person-to-person debate.

Another aspect is empowering versus disenfranchising - whether or not we're giving or taking. Even though I'm strongly against transactional conversations per se, sometimes it is interesting to observe this dynamic.

I've been catching myself lately on occasions where I was taking away - certainly not giving power to the person I was talking with. Sometimes out of frustration, boredom, or, most often, ego, as a privileged white hetero man, it's easy to control and strip power away from others.

All I can do is give. Even when I have nothing left to give from.

Bloom

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I had this dream about walking through our garden, seeing my cherry tree blooming. In fact, everything was blooming in the garden.

The calendar tells me that spring is here. Yet, just yesterday, we had snowfall. Late March/early April is always a fun, but weird period of change. It's like a dance. Sometimes, the weather takes a step forward; towards spring. Other times, it goes back a bit, embracing the bitterness of winter.

Something wispered to me in that garden: we're not ready yet.

I'm not ready yet?

For something to bloom it needs time to grow.

Historical Thinking

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I know quite a few people who don't like history. Either they deem it as unnecessary, or they're frustrated by how convoluted, ambivalent, and honestly, confusing history is.

I get that. For a long time, history was, for me, the most useless thing out there. Why should I care about that one stupid king who ruled my country centuries ago? He's not here now, so I won't care.

Probably, I'd still have this mindset if not for my history teacher, Mr. Bartek. He was genius. Or, rather, he could tell stories very well. He made it all interesting within itself. I got hooked. I didn't see the connections, the conclusions, but at least I was interested in the stories themselves. It was like reading good fiction books (which I loved to read at the time), but real.

Only much later, I started to see history as a whole. I have terribly good photographic memory (there are downsides to this, too), so I always remembered historical dates. And so, I could see history on a timeline, chronologically, in my mind. Everything started to gain context. Things that happened weren't just things. They were history, the chain of events that led us to where we are now, at this very moment.

There's incredible value in applying historical thinking to any field. Seeing things in context, on a timeline, analyzing the causes, the consequences. I'd say that this even applies to fields as abstract as mathematics, logic. One thing that always pissed me off while being taught maths at school was that they just showed numbers and things we could do with them. But, since we were always doing one section of the textbook at the time, there was no context. Just numbers. I never learned the connections. How different mathematical processes developed, based on already existing knowledge.

Nothing exists without context. No one is alone in their existence.

Eye Of A Needle

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Sometimes, in life, there are moments that seem impossible. If you try to think about your life as a whole, about the things you've done, the things you still have to do, it can be overwhelming. Especially if you have more life ahead of you than behind you.

It's like trying to fit through the eye of a needle. So tiny, so thin. It is, truly, impossible to pass through. Growing up, getting old, finding love, passing that exam, getting that funding. All of these are eyes of a needle. Chokepoints. Challenges. Obstacles, some may say.

Even though I'm relatively young, I can't count all of the moments when I thought it was impossible for me to pass. To survive. And there are so many more ahead of me. If I try to breathe all of this in at once, I choke. Will I find true love? Will my work be impactful and honest? Will my loved ones be safe for as long as possible? Too much. Thankfully, in reality, all of this is spread in time.

These "eyes of a needle" are the most transformative, most revolutionary, most important moments of our lives. Yes, they might be stressful. Yes, they might make us feel like all of this is too much. Trying to squeeze through the eye of a needle is the most growth we'll ever experience. We have to shed unnecessary baggage, our ego, our overloaded minds. Just gather all of the incredibly powerful potential energy all of us have. And go. Take the first step, which will, inevitably, lead us to the last.

If you can fit in the eye of a needle, you can do anything.

ucho.jpg

Égalité

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We live in an unequal world. That's a fact. I've been thinking about gender equality quit a bit in the past few days.

There's a limited number of voices that can reach the entire world. Let's say it's somewhere around 500. Only five hundred people who's opinions, beliefs, statements reach the entire world (whether it's hundreds of millions or billions - I don't know). And this number can't constantly keep growing - we all have just 24 hours a day. If 80% of these people are men (as it is right now), we have a jarring mismatch between the whole world (50/50) and this particular group of people with the biggest outreach (80/20).

It's not hard to find examples of patriarchic paradigms in every element of our society. Men have had, and still do have, incredible privileges over women. Anyone denying this is either blind to factual truth or benefiting from keeping this scheme going.

There is only one true, permanent solution. Men waiving their privilege card in favor of women. Letting your wife get that great big job while you take care of the house. Helping your mom write her first novel. Paying your sister's college tuition instead of buying yourself a new car.

Individually, these actions might not seem very impactful. But, when a critical number of men step down from their pedestal and let women take their place, we will achieve true equality.

Critique

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This truly feels like a post I should've written ages ago.

Please critique my posts. That's the gist of it.

Even though this blog just passed the 100 000 word count mark, I still feel like a noob. English is not my first language, and so I often feel like the words I'm writing are not necessarily correct. I'm improvising every single sentence, every thought.

I do get messages from readers sometimes. So far, they have only been positive. And I'm incredibly thankful for them; there were times when praise was the only thing that made me keep going. Even though I do not know who or how many are reading this blog, I am grateful for every single message of support.

Constructive criticism is the path to mastery. There's always, in any kind of work, space for improvement. If there's a statement you do not agree with, or if you think my language could be improved, please let me know by shooting me an email. Or if there's an extra thought you'd like to share - please do!

I write for the sake of writing. But, right after that, I write for my dearest readers :)

I'd be honored if you'd decide to critique my work.