A Year Of... interesting things

March Update

March was a month of replacements and to a lesser degree of acquisitions of items that I found truly useful, and to that the two rules that have dominated the minimalism process have been:

  • Rule #13 - Differentiate between things you want and things you need: seems like common sense advice and it seems generally easy to follow and yet very frequent I find myself enamored with how I imagine I would use something only to find myself not using it at all; the purchases that followed this rule have been items that solved a real problem in my life, after I discovered I had the problem and not before (example: a camping mattress after suffering through sleeping on some make-shift lounge pads);
  • Rule #46 - One in/One out: for every new item you bring in your life, get rid of (at least) one; this replacement approach has allowed me to bring better items in my life and get rid of some items that were hanging around just because I used them every once in a while, but mostly avoided them due to various defects (e.g. scratched sunglasses, or some uncomfortable headphones).

In getting rid of a small number of cables I had lying around, I also got to experience the Concorde fallacy also known as sunk cost fallacy as some of these items have been purchased because I had already invested in an initial bigger purchase.

Overall, I got rid of 44 items and brought in some 15, for a net total of -29, way over my 10 items threshold, and allow me to reflect how many of my possession are no longer of use to me, just merely hanging around for “just in case” and “what ifs”.

On the business front, I wish I had more progress to report.
I rationalized March as a month of reflection; while I did read at least one book, Raving Fans and found some value, a good amount of time has been spent on just being unsure what direction I can go in.

In the plus side, I have decided that I will read only one more area where I lack knowledge before making a decision: marketing, product validation and customer acquisition.

I am not as confident about having good books as I was in the previous months, even more so given the subject is a lot more temporary. Management and startup techniques change a lot slower than the mores and approaches of how groups can be reach, sold to, and engaged.

February Report

/r/fountainpens is a guilty pleasure and also a delightful curse, in that it creates occasional wants that go against the path of minimalism I have set myself on.

In this case, spurred by the multiple beautiful posts of vintage fountain pens, mostly Western (American and European), I felt it unjust that the much celebrated East was not present more and when I happened upon a batch of vintage Chinese pens, I couldn’t resist.

That set me back 10 items in my desired to rid myself of net 10 possessions per month. Ouch.

Once again, one observation from Goodbye, Things, that you have to just start and things happen from there on, helped me reach a gross of 31 things I have gotten rid of, whether it was donating – the more valuable items – or throwing into the trashcan, for a net balance of 15 fewer possessions once February reached its end.

I read fewer books this month than in January, although none less valuable. On the business front I read/listened to 7 books, not all of which apply at this point and all of which were inspirational:

  • finished Eric Ries’s “The Lean Startup”, one book I wish I had read early in my twenties, because its concept of “validated learning” and its Build-Measure-Learn loop could be applied to almost any task in life where there is a progression possible, whether it’s building a startup, a product, or even life’s little things like dating, career, or getting ahead;
  • Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made To Stick”, about what makes ideas and concepts sticky, introduced me to the SUCCESs model: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, and Emotional Stories;
  • Steve Blank’s “Four Steps to the Epiphany” is the precursor to “The Lean Startup” methodology;
  • Tim Feriss’s “The Four Hour Work-week”, even if a bit outdated, needs little introduction;
  • Ryan Holiday’s “Ego Is The Enemy” on the other hand feels like the modern-day’s stoic’s handbook.

March is happening tomorrow and it’s my last chance to wrap up the books that will help me pursue my goal of reducing dependency on a single big client and give it shape in creating a separate revenue stream that could provide me one day, soon I hope, with the financial freedom that I so seek.

January Report

One of the tips mentioned in Goodbye, Things was to leverage social media as a way of creating a personal pressure to stay on track with the job of minimizing.

As such, I’ve submitted a Reddit promise to get rid of 10 things per month. There were a few encouraging comments and one that led me to further analysis asking if this is about net reduction or not.

I’ve emphatically committed to net items, meaning that if I had acquired items during January, I would have to increase the number of items I got rid of by the same amount - for example if I bought 1 item, I would have now to get rid of 11 items.

It was a decision I hesitated a bit as I didn’t know what to expect as far as purchases and at the end of the day commitment won.

As it turned out once I started out following the advice in the book things ended up snowballing to the point where within a few days I had over three times the amount I had committed to and had to put a stop to it out of fear that I will discard everything in the first month and thus not be able to keep my commitment (habit building is important).

Some of the rules/tips that really helped:

  1. #9 - Start with things that are clearly junk - examples of items I threw away: a dried out glue stick, pills, expired coupons;
  2. #11 - Get rid of it if you haven’t used it in a year - some clothing items and books fell under this category;
  3. #20 - Let go of the idea of someday - this was hard one for me as I do love collecting projects;
  4. #14 - Take photos of the items that are tough to part with - another difficult one as it seems that some gifts and hand-made items are just not made for getting rid of but for recollecting and maybe laughing about; I now have a folder of photos on my phone where I store this and you know what - it was actually easy to share and remember the item this way.

All that being said, January saw me acquire 2 items and discard 31, a total net of 29.

On the business front I read/listened to 7 books, not all of which apply at this point and all of which were inspirational:

  • Jason Schreier’s “Blood, Sweat, and Pixels” (don’t ever want to be in the video-game industry);
  • Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”;
  • “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell;
  • “ReWork” by Jason Fried and DHH;
  • Ben Horrowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”;
  • Chris Guillebeau’s “The $100 Startup”;
  • currently reading Eric Ries’s “The Lean Startup”.

2019 - A Year of Reducing

2019 was well on its way to be A Year of Business - I had some plans about growing my business and getting more clients or maybe explorer some passive income sources.

And then, towards the end of the year, I’ve read Fumio Sasaki’s Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism, which Apartment Therapy wonders if it’s the New “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.

Burden by the expectations associated with various items from my life (I’ve bought a guitar so I must learn to play), I’ve been trying for a few years to work towards reducing such objects from my life. Goodbye, Things gives a path, a system for such reduction and that transformed 2019 into A Year of Reducing.

In 2019 I am reducing:

  • possessions;
  • detrimental habits;
  • reliance on a single big client for my income (and there in still looping some remnants of the former planned Year of Business).

The first one, reducing possessions, is pretty clear and has a very precise goal behind it: I will get rid of a minimum of 10 possessions per month. These may be something as expensive as the guitar I mentioned, or it may be as cheap as an empty container that’s been pointlessly sitting on my desk waiting for me to decide to do something with it.

The second one, reducing detrimental habits is a bit harder to nail down as it requires a deeper introspection and also a commitment beyond my normal abilities as some of these detrimental habits are just coping means. To that extent, I will:

  • reduce my consumption of alcohol or even give it up altogether (I probably sound like a heavy drinker and it’s quite the opposite; I do have a penchant for sweet liqueurs and cocktails): no more than 1 drink/week;
  • paired with it, I will attempt to reduce snacking and stress-eating;
  • spend less time playing video games: under 10 hours/week;
  • spend less time on social media, mostly on Reddit (it’s hard because I’m a compulsive information processor) - which I will reduce to the /r/tldr sub and perhaps a handful of meta-subs like business, programming, or minimalism related ones;
  • spend fewer days and weekends indoors and more out enjoying the wonderful parks my state offers;

As for the third, reducing single-client reliance, all I have is a vague goal – $100/month in recurring revenue by/at the mid-year point, $1,000/month by/at the end of the year – and a list of books:

  • About the process:
    • The E-Myth Revisited
    • The Lean Startup
    • Four Steps to the Epiphany
  • About the mindset:
    • Reword
    • Made to Stick
    • The Dip
    • Ego Is The Enemy
  • About people in the space (biographies):
    • Shoe Dog
    • The Hard Things about Hard Things
  • Misc:
    • Entreleadership
    • Build to Sell
    • The Goal
    • Rich Dad, Poor Dad
    • The Greatest Salesman in the World
    • 2019 Small Business Taxes
    • Psychology of Persuasion
    • 48 Laws of Power
    • Sell of Be Sold
    • The Slide Edge
    • The Pumpkin Plan
    • The Personal MBA

Seems quite a lot and I feel a bit overwhelmed, yet most of them are things that take little time (except for reading books) and a lot of discipline.

Ironically enough, a lot of my discipline in recent years comes from playing video-games and seeing them through, being diligent about working on multi-step quests or objectives.

Here’s to hoping.

2018 In Review

I feel that of all the years I’ve been tracking, 2018 has been the most consistent in achieving its objectives.

I’ve spent around 100 hours on cooking and updating the blog - I see them as facets of the same project.

What worked:

  • focusing on a topic that is obviously needed: food, helped keep the ball rolling;
  • having clear goals - such as cooking at least once per week - made it easy to see when things dropped off and pick it up again;
  • posting all the recipes on the blog felt a bit of a chore at times, yet it underlined the commitment while also providing a secondary goal-tracking mechanism;
  • I’ve built a good basis and learned a few tricks that should keep me in the business; I definitely want to continue cooking throughout the coming years.

What could’ve been improved:

  • none of the explicit items I wanted to learn to make or make better have been achieved; I didn’t learn to make better breakfast mostly because I, we, don’t really eat breakfast; same with soup and with all the soups I made I was the one that ate them beyond the tasting phase; pasta sauce would’ve been an interesting endeavor, but with so many other recipes it fell to the wayside.
  • went some weeks without cooking as the family may not have liked the recipe enough to have it more than once, so it was up to me to finish eating it and I was not going to make something new just to end up in the same place;
  • I wish I learned more or really any “flavor theory” so that I can better understand why certain flavors work or don’t work together.

What am I bringing forward:

  • the need to set and track clear goals;
  • the discipline of writing about my progress;
  • a reduction in dining out.