Since embracing my newfound freedom from academia, I have been learning the necessity of self-imposed rules. We all have them. They are what keep us sane and (mostly) from alienating too many people. Here are some of mine. Some are specific, others are broad and apply to life in general. I find that keeping a record helps me to follow them.
1. Outsource opinions which require too much effort to maintain. For example, I am not interested in politics enough to do the necessary research for an informed opinion. Meanwhile, my brother cares deeply about politics so I just ask him what I should think about key topics. This might sound like a lazy way to be, but I think it's pretty smart. I would rather leech off someone else's expertise than have an uninformed opinion.
2. If there is no way to fail, it is not worth doing. Think about that. Every worthwhile thing has a flipside.
3. Never hold opinions you would not be willing to change. That is not an opinion, it is a stubborn conviction. I am always amazed by how many people do not even consider changing their views when information to contradict it is presented to them.
4. Try not to be guided by anything you learned in school. Most of it was oversimplified, useless or incomplete. Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Crack, cave, arch, stack, stump. SOHCAHTOA. All that stuff. I have forgotten 99.9% of this so this one is easy to follow. Instead: learn from people who know what they are talking about, rather than teachers who have to cover hundreds of different topics.
5. Don't read the news. If it is important, someone will mention it. I read the news maybe once every couple of months if I am on the tube in London. Again, call me ignorant if you wish. It happens to save a lot of time and energy. Also, most of it does not matter.
6. Reassess everything, as often as possible. Refresh systems and be vigilant for entropy. Life is too short to let things go stale or become detrimental. Exercise regimes stop leading to improvement. Projects loose their direction. Task management systems become overcrowded.
7. For writing: minimum passive tense, minimum adverbs, minimum contractions. No schedules, just write every day for as long as possible.
8. Read the comments. Smile at the good ones, cry over the bad ones if need be. Then move on. There is a lot to be learned from comment sections, even if just how ridiculous people can be. When writing about a topic, it is useful to look at the comments where others have covered it. They tend to flag up common objections, misunderstandings and opinions.
9. Cry once a week, for about an hour. The rest of the time, stay calm. Contain it. When I feel like getting upset about something, I ask myself if it worth using up my weekly cryfest on.
10. Absorb information during every available moment. Reject basic entertainment.
11. Immediately get rid of anything which can be gotten rid of. Avoid being weighed down by physical items. Avoid buying anything other than books (see below.)
12. Set a budget each month. Order of priorities: books, accommodation, transport, food, other stuff. As Desiderius said 'when I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.' That does not mean I spend the most on books (nowhere near), I just fit my other expenses around the ones I intend to buy.
13. If it is possible to not make a decision without anything bad happening, don't make it. It probably does not matter. Decision fatigue is a real thing.
14. Be fully focused on one learning about/from one person at a time. Read everything they have written, listen to all their interviews/talks, if they have a blog then read the entire archive. I don't believe in half-assing knowledge; I either want to know everything about a topic or nothing.
15. Avoid or build restriction systems around anything you lack self-control around. E.g. smoking, alcohol, cereal, Reddit. My brain does not understand the concept of moderation. Cold Turkey is my guardian angel. Discipline over motivation, basically.
16. Everything you do should be either: beneficial and enjoyable, or beneficial but not enjoyable. Anything which is just enjoyable is a bad idea, especially if it outright harmful.
17. Always be breaking a bad habit and building a good one. I find this continuous process of refinement more effective than singular big pushes. Maybe by the time I am 50 I will have reshaped myself into a fully functioning human.
18. Carry a book and notebook EVERYWHERE. I don't even go to the supermarket without them. You never know when you will have an idea or have to wait and it's a good alternative to whipping out your phone every time.
19. If you complain about not having time do something, cut out something else. If there is nothing you are willing to cut, it was not worth doing anyway. This never fails me. When I started this site I quit TV, when I started writing more frequently I quit social media.
20. It is not easy to be happy all the time, but it is simple to be content. Contentment requires very little: a book, a fire, the sun, a dog. Happiness is a little more complex and more fleeting.
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