Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

I didn’t believe that I would survive after contracting depression 13 years ago. There didn’t seem to be light at the end of the tunnel. However, it is real and people do suffer from it. Often, I felt that I was largely alone and no one else could understand what I was going through. The solution to overcome depression is to speak about it openly. Time can heal things and words can set you free.

The Day I Died. I suffered from depression from about a year when I was 24. My great-grandmother committed suicide previously. Life was so bad that I contemplated suicide. Even my appetite was affected. This was an existential horror. I literally attempted suicide.

Death was something that scared me. And death only happens to people who have been living. There were infinitely more people who had never been alive. I wanted to be one of those people. That old classic wish. To never have been born. To have been one of the three hundred million sperm that hadn’t made it. – Matt Haig

Why Depression is hard to understand. It is invisible. Your troubles seem to be never-ending and tormenting. It is mysterious in nature and anyone can suffer from it, even comedians.

A Beautiful View. I wanted to attempt suicide when I was holidaying in Spain. I did manage to walk to the edge of the cliff. A depressed person doesn’t want to feel happy, they just want to be freed of pain. My loved ones didn’t know what I was going through. I decided not to take my life.

I think life always provides reasons to not die, if we listen hard enough. Those reasons can stem from the past – the people who raised us, maybe, or friends or lovers – or from the future – the possibilities we would be switching off. – Matt Haig

Pills. My doctor advised me to take pills, even though I didn’t want to. Even after medication, I still felt that I was divorced from reality and a sense of panic was still within me

Killer. Suicide is becoming increasingly common and it is very scary indeed. Some people underestimate the effects of depression.

Negative Placebo. I tended to drink too much when I was not anxious. Diazepam seems to increase my panic levels. To me, the drug was the problem.

Feeling the Rain without an Umbrella. We are made to believe that medication can work all the time. To me, sleeping pills were more effective than anti-anxiety medication. In reality, many people cannot do without pills like Diazepam. There are professors who believe that there are other ways to counter depression other than drugs. Examples could be intervening and recognizing when we are in a low-mood state.

Life. I didn’t get along with my ex-colleagues. I felt out of my place when hanging out with them. I quitted the job and thought that I was a failure in life.

Infinity. Normally, people only think about one thing at once so as to simplify things. However, depressed people think about hidden stuff.

The evolutionary psychologists might be right. We humans might have evolved too far. The price for being intelligent enough to be the first species to be fully aware of the cosmos might just be a capacity to feel a whole universe’s worth of darkness. – Matt Haig

The hope that hadn’t happened. It felt better seeing my parents smile. I returned to where I grew up as a child. I seemed okay for now.

The Cyclone. Depression felt like a weight, both a metaphorical and emotional one. I felt trapped in a cyclone.

My symptoms. There were many different types of symptoms at play here. The warning signs were all present. I kept thinking that I was going through this alone.

But with depression and anxiety the pain isn’t something you think about because it is thought. You are not your back but you are your thoughts. – Matt Haig

The Bank of Bad Days. You store memories of bad days but you always remind yourself of worst days.

Things depression says to you. Depression will tell you to continue staying in bed. It will tell you that everyone will be dead eventually. It will tell you that tomorrow will be worse than today.

Facts. I craved for knowledge. Many people are not open or acknowledge that they have depression. Men are three times more likely to kill themselves as compared to women. Depression is becoming more common and it is scary.

The head against the window. I thought it would be better to be the 80 year-old on the street as compared to my own current identity. The tears came from my stomach. My dad cried too. Crying can be contagious sometimes.

From the outside a person sees your physical form, sees that you are a unified mass of atoms and cells. Yet inside you feel like a Big Bang has happened. You feel lost, disintegrated, spread across the Universe amid infinite dark space. – Matt Haig

Pretty Normal Childhood. People with depression may have mental illnesses in the past. However, I was often anxious when I was younger.

A Visit. I realized that I had a phobia for tight places.

Boys don’t cry. Men are more likely to kill themselves as compared to women. Why is that? Most men see mental illness as a form of weakness. Often, they don’t like to seek help. Learn to accept that depression is a human experience after all.

It took me more than a decade to be able to talk openly, properly, to everyone, about my experience. I soon discovered the act of talking is in itself a therapy. Where talk exists, so does hope. – Matt Haig

Landing

Once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Cherry blossom. You become obsessed with how your brain functions. I wished I could be a blossom that floated away from a tree. Depression is a mysterious illness.

Unknown unknowns. The brain is incredibly complex. Depression is not about chemical imbalance. It could be due to the lack of serotonin. However, there are also research which point to other directions. Neuroscience is constantly improving. However, the human brain hasn’t evolved from years ago. Our cognition ability hasn’t improved from the past. Exercise does help you to feel better about yourself.

The brain is the body –part 1. When you are depressed, your body feels it too. For instance, you suffer heart palpitations, aching limbs, sweaty palms etc.

Psycho. I realized that I talked in my sleep when I was younger. I had many troubles and worries when I was a kid.

Jenga Days. Time passed extremely slowly when I was 13. A week seemed like a voyage.

Warning Signs. Depression is essentially an illness. It is often invisible. One might feel fatigued for no particular reason. Other symptoms could be loss of appetite, irritability, crying episodes etc.

Demons. I imagined a demon licking me when I closed my eyes. The more I tried not to think of it, the more it appeared. I couldn’t get rid of it at all.

Existence. It is not easy to not think that life is hard. This is the human condition. Humans have created remarkable things in their lifetimes. However, life is sweet even though we know that nothing lasts forever.

Life is hard. It may be beautiful and wonderful but it is also hard. The way people seem to cope is by not thinking about it too much. But some people are not going to be able to do that. – Matt Haig

Part 3: Rising

The art of walking on your own. Depression is often associated with anxiety issues. I forced myself to walk into situations alone. Although I was scared, I told myself that it would be ok. Even walking to the shop alone was incredibly scary for me. I told myself that it was just a shop. I had trouble standing still after purchasing something. It is never easy for a depressive to perform even simple tasks.

A Conversation Across Time – Part 2. I kept telling myself that I could do it. I made it to the shop. I realized that I needed to give myself reasons to stay alive.

Reasons to Stay Alive. Many other people have been here before and been in your shoes. Things are only going to get better from here. The pain won’t last forever. Hurricanes will run out of energy someday. Tell yourself that life will be worth it. There will be happy moments again.

You hate yourself. That is because you are sensitive. Pretty much every human could find a reason to hate themselves if they thought about it as much as you did. We’re all total bastards, us humans, but also totally wonderful. – Matt Haig

Your mind is a galaxy. More dark than light. But the light makes it worthwhile. Which is to say, don’t kill yourself. Even when the darkness is total. Always know that life is not still. Time is a space. You are moving through that galaxy. Wait for the stars. – Matt Haig

Love. No matter how much you love, you will never be free of pain. Andrea saved me. We have been together for 5 years. Love is being able to do weird stuff with another person and be yourself fully. I was lucky. When depression hit, Andrea was always there for me. I could always talk to her. She covered for me.

How to be there for someone with depression or anxiety. Understand that your presence matters. Listen. Educate yourself and realize that depressives can’t do simple tasks. Learn to be patient and ask them what can you do to help.

An Inconsequential Moment. I thought about work. It was a neutral thought. It was massive progress for me.

Things that have happened to me that have generated more sympathy than depression. There were a lot of other things.

Life on Earth to an alien. Explaining depression to someone not suffering from it is like explaining life on Earth to an alien. It can be very intense. It is your life. Everything is magnified in intensity. Even minor changes in weather seem massive to you. It is like a sharpening of the senses.

White Space. I liked the white space. Light was everything. I started to pick up reading. It was good that I fell in love with reading all over again. Words are the escape route. Books were the way out for me.

There is this idea that you either read to escape or you read to find yourself. I don’t really see the difference. We find ourselves through the process of escaping. – Matt Haig

The Power and the Glory. I read ‘The Power and the Glory’ by Graham Greene. I loved his works. There was something which I could relate to. There was hope of redemption at the end and it was inspiring. Some of the other books which inspired me were ‘The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton’; ‘Letters of Keats’; ‘Oranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson’; ‘Money by Martin Amis’; ‘The Diary of Samuel Pepys’.

Paris. I was afraid of travelling and felt a panic attack coming back. I was afraid of saying no as it made me seem like a loser. Eventually I went and realized that things were not so bad. I confronted my fears calmly. Travelling gives you perspective and solution. Travel has since become one of my favorite things to do.

Reasons to be Strong. I needed to be near Andrea. I had to be strong one after I realized Andrea’s mum had cancer. It was horrible having to wait for her mum in hospital. However, eventually, they returned and I was okay again. Later, I challenged myself and eventually got a book published. I dedicated the book to Andrea.

Weapons. I was going to be a published author. My self-esteem was boosted massively. I knew that wellness was possible.

Running. Running was a great alleviator of depression and anxiety. It was difficult but that only motivated to work harder and train more. It undid the damage from smoking and drinking. Murakami loved to run too. It really helped to train the mind. My weapons against depression were writing, reading, talking, travelling etc.

The brain is the body –part 2. Mental illness leads to other ailments too. Derealisation is a symptom that makes you feel well, not real.

Famous People. Even famous people like David Foster Wallace and Robin Williams took their own lives. Depression can happen to just about anyone. Being overly attached to material items can lead to greater suffering. Depression makes us think too much.

Abraham Lincoln and the Fearful Gift. He wanted to accomplish something in his lifetime. He insisted in acknowledging his fears and delve deeper into them. He was one of the most serious men around. Depression was something Churchill had but that inspired him. The motivation behind ‘The Scream by Edvard Munch’ was also existential terror. Franz Kafka was also a depressed person. Melancholy fueled Lincoln’s great work.

I find that being grimly aware of mortality can make me steadfastly determined to enjoy life where life can be enjoyed. It makes me value precious moments with my children, and with the woman I love. – Matt Haig

Part 4: Living

The World. If everything was happy and great, why would people need anything more? However, it is important to be calm and learn to settle.

Life is the people who love you. No one will ever choose to stay alive for an iPhone. It’s the people we reach via the iPhone that matter. – Matt Haig

Mushroom Clouds. It is easy to ignore warning signs. Now, I know what to look out for. I had to give a speech in public in school and I felt incredibly nervous. A rash broke out around my skin. I experienced a panic attack but managed to finish my presentation.

The Big A. Anxiety and depression co-exist like a nightmare marriage. We are all overloaded by information in the modern world. Do we all have to live with anxiety?

Slow Down. It is important to learn to slow down. We can use CAT and MRI. Neuroscience isn’t perfect yet. Pills might not be the only cure too. Yoga is good at helping you to slow down. Take deep breaths. Learn to meditate and let the tension go. Always live in the present.

Parties. It is difficult to walk in a room full of people. I hated parties. My panic episodes seemed to be entering relapse. I ran to Andrea. Thankfully, after I left the party, the panic attacks subsided. Failure can be a step forward.

Part 5: Being

Fighting makes it worse. I learn to accept depression and anxiety. Now, I am simply glad to be alive. I want to experience as much of life as I can. I want to feel as much as I can.

I feel the sheer unfathomable marvel that is this strange life we have, here on earth, the seven billion of us, clustered in our towns and cities on this pale blue dot of a planet, spending our allotted 30,000 days as best we can, in glorious insignificance. – Matt Haig

How to be a bit happier than Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer thought that life was about futile purposes. He thought that achieving goals only brought a short satisfaction. Unattained goals cause pain. Even if you achieve your goal, you will need to set another one and the process continues on and on. The solution is to give things up. His solution was to lead a very unambitious life and deny their instincts. How do you stop wanting and worrying? How do you get off the treadmill once and for all? The answer is acceptance. Buddhists believe in mindfulness. It is important to connect with the Universe and meditate more. It is important to grateful and compassionate. One should be selfless and mindful.

We all matter because we are all alive. And so kindness is an active way in which we can see and feel the bigger picture. – Matt Haig

Thoughts on Time. We all fear death. Time does seem to travel at different speeds. Being aware is important. How much are we living in the present? We think that life is short so that we need to achieve as much as possible. However, by doing so, it seems that time will pass too quickly. We all have to accept how small we are in this world.

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IIA Magazine Aug 2017 issue

The Technology Issue

 A technology revolution. Tech is moving at a fast pace and some businesses may not be able to reap the benefits. IA needs to understand the evolving risk landscape related to the business. Tech will continue to disrupt the landscape and IA needs to reassess what data means to them going forward. Auditors help organizations avoid getting into trouble by identifying issues early and avoid them being surfaced by regulators or the media.

The Cyber Readiness Gap. Organizations may not be prepared for the attacks they are expecting. Ransomware is a big issue and thinks will get worse. Only half the organizations surveyed have a plan to address ransomware attacks. IA can help to scrutinize cybersecurity practices and plans. IT security governance needs to include the human factor in corporate risk analysis and assessment. IA can move from a supportive to front-seat role when building crisis-resilient culture.

More than Compliance with ‘A’. Transforming a compliance program into a value-adding activity starts with IA. Compliance with AML regulations are important. However, many managers do not see value in compliance work. IA needs to ensure compliance can provide real assurance. It is important to do the right thing and do things correctly. Ask yourself why there is a compliance requirement in the first place. IA needs to work with the first and second line of defence to ensure all risks are being addressed. IA should also question the need for, existence of, and adequacy of compliance with A. Sometimes, the original risks may not be present and hence the compliance requirement should not be relevant. One needs to examine the adequacy and effectiveness of the mitigating control. The audit needs to maximize the use of resources and analytics. One can use trend analysis to understand whether risk is increasing or decreasing. Effectiveness of controls can be tested with analytics.

‘But it should not be compliance simply for compliance sake. Internal audit should consider the overarching business objective and the controls that help mitigate risk to the achievement of the objective – even when examining compliance-related controls.’

Stop Clicking, Start Coding. SQL queries can enable internal auditors to uncover greater insights from organizational data. Data needs to be analysed etc. Some auditors are required to learn SQL. It is a language for managing data held in databases. To be good, logical thinking and reasoning are important and necessary for coding. SQL can be tailored for auditing needs and for ad-hoc queries. SQL and other audit software can form a powerful set of analytical tools.

Internal Audit needs risk management too. Managing its own risks can improve the audit function’s performance and demonstrate that it practices what it preaches. One key risk of IA is whether the department is strategically positioned within the organization its objectives. Other risks are whether the department has enough staff, on assurance etc. Reputation risks are important too, and so is compliance risks. Operational risks are like the resourcing problems, annual audit plan etc. If audits are behind schedule by about a month, it needs to be highlighted as a red flag. IA can also do a risk control self-assessment to evaluate internal controls in place.

The Cashier Cash Thief. Mounting family pressures and opportunity cause a trusted warranty clerk to pocket payments from customers. IA must emphasize the importance of SOD and monitor any exceptions. Trend analysis would allow organization to detect fraud more timely. Routine audits are vital for all cash processes. Mandatory vacations and rotation of duties should have prevented fraud from happening.

In Safe Hands. Organizations must grapple with a host of issues when determining how to best protect their data and manage the way it’s used. In Europe, there is a General Data Protection Regulation that goes into effect in spring 2018. It is a stricter regulation than ever before. Firms need to obtain consent for data collected from individuals. IA needs to go back to the drawing board to strike a balance. Respecting someone’s privacy rights is actually a soft skill and needs a soft approach. Privacy controls need to be engineered into business processes. Businesses must be clear about what they need the data for. Many companies do not know where their data comes from and how it is used. IA can be a role model in innovation etc.

Great tech expectations. As technology becomes more integrated with business processes, auditors must raise their IT skills. New auditors usually have better skills than older ones. People with expertise in IT will be in demand. Those with experience in DA will have an advantage over those who don’t. Experience with audit-specific software is also a plus. Auditors need to have an understanding of the infrastructure and applications being used. New authors are not usually well versed in soft skills. IA needs to have a good understanding of flow, controls and governance. Determine the specialty skills needed. Maintaining the right mix of generalists and specialists is a key IT challenge. IA needs to have a training plan for the IT risk and controls. Training hours need to be tracked and there needs to be information sharing at every meeting.

Building a data analytics program. Six strategies can facilitate progress when starting or furthering an analytics program. Many functions suffer from pitfalls/ setbacks. The six strategies are (1) create awareness rather than a silo; (2) understand the data before investing in a tool; (3) plan sufficiently; (4) think big picture; (5) Partner with IT; (6) Take advantage of visualization tools for inspired reporting.

#PurposeServiceImpact. The IIA’s 2017-2018 Global Chairman of the Board J Michael Peppers encourages IA to unify around the three concepts in his powerful hashtag. Purpose, Service and Impact are important words for our profession. It is about the why we do things. We should help enhance shareholder value through our work. Service is basically walking the talk. It is important to establish credibility with clients. We are both change agents and educators and need to do the right thing. Volunteering is important and internal auditors should strive to give back to the society. Always try to make a positive difference. We need to understand the purpose of the organization.

‘The best and most successful internal auditors I know understand that internal auditing is more than just a job: it is a sincere effort to improve the lot of others, whether organizations or individuals.’

The Root of the Matter. Performing root-cause analysis requires that auditors recognize common myths associated with the process. Addressing root cause will prevent the issue from recurring. Complex problems may be due a variety of factors. There may not be a single root cause at times. Use the 5 Why techniques. Sometimes, two root causes can lead to one problem. Some brainstorming is required to address all the root causes. One can use the fishbone diagram and identify problems in different categories like: Man, Machine, Measurements, Method, Materials, and Mother Nature. One can also use scatter diagrams to pair cause and effect and look for relationships. Good recommendations in the audit report should address the root causes of a problem. However, IA should understand that RCA requires time and resources and the organization must weigh the pros and cons of doing it.

Seven Steps to Transformation. IA can assist management throughout the many stages of business change. The first is pre-implementation review. It helps management to identify problems at the planning stage. Ask yourself what is the best ERP project model for ERP packages? The other steps are process/controls analysis, In-flight reviews, IT and User Acceptance Testing and Output/Results testing. The last 2 steps are post-implementation reviews and comparison to project management reviews.

It’s only one word. Excessive audit report wordsmithing is often a disservice to the client – and the audit function. Let those who did the work have a say in the changes. Never make a change unless you can explain why that change is necessary. Otherwise, you are just changing for personal preference. Always explain the reasons for any change to the person who wrote the original drafts. Do not be too anal about phrasing as this will result in rewriting and delays and frustrations.

‘Far too often, the lead, manager, chief audit executive doesn’t like what is written and starts editing the audit report. The process often results in a report the auditor no longer recognizes and, in the worst situations, it says something the auditor never intended it to say.’

The Data Analytics Strategy. Adding analytics to the audit methodology requires careful change management. Funding and resources needs to be provided. Integrate data analytics requirements into the audit methodology. Look for quick wins if possible. Use a champion to lead the strategy. CAE must emphasize that analytics is good as it improves audit efficiency. Analytics can add value not just to fieldwork, but also risk assessment and planning. Data is also evidence and that’s what sells well.

From ratings to Recommendations. Behavioural psychology suggests internal auditors’ approach could benefit from more carrot and less stick. Audit gradings are hated by auditees as it sends a signal that they did something wrong and that things are really bad. The SDT (self-determination theory) shows that human motivation is optimized when the following 3 are present: developing one’s skills (competency); exercising free will (autonomy); feeling connected with others (relatedness). Give your auditee the chance by sharing about common goals and building good relationships with them.

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The Art of the Good Life: 52 Surprising Shortcuts to Happiness, Wealth and Success by Rolf Dobelli (Part 4)

Managing Expectations (The Less You Expect, the Happier You’ll Be). Our brains are an expectation machine. Expectations are built without us knowing as well, on a subconscious level. Do not have excessively high expectations of certain events. If your expectations regarding income rise faster than your income, you will be disappointed. Besides feeding yourself, you don’t have to do anything else. There are very few true necessities in life. Learn to erase supposed ‘necessities’ from your life. It is good to have desires, but do not be shackled by them. Not all your desires will be fulfilled. Your preferences are sometimes out of your control. Try not to have expectations of others, as they are beyond your control. To live a good life, draw distinctions between necessities, desires and expectations. You need to keep them separate. Managing your expectations is part of a good life.

Research confirms that expectations have a profound impact on happiness, and that unrealistic expectations are among the most effective killjoys. – Rolf Dobelli

Sturgeon’s Law (How to Tune your bullshit detector). Sturgeon’s Law states that 90% of everything is crap, regardless of what field you are in. To re-phrase, 90% of intellectual things are bullshit. Knowing this is good, as you can filter what you see, hear or read without feeling guilty. Concentrate on being selective in your absorption of content. In life, you will come across a lot of trash, but you need to be able to tune those out. It is easier said than done. Recognize the difference between ideas and good ideas. If you’re not sure whether something is bullshit, it’s bullshit.

In Praise of Modesty (The Less Self-Important You Are, the Better Your Life will be). Even great people will be forgotten in 4 generations or so. The problem with humans are that we are too attached to a sense of self-esteem. Our ego is too big. To live a good life, avoid being too full of yourself. Avoid standing upon your ego too much. Focus on your work and do not brag. The self-serving bias afflicts those who have a big ego in life. They may also over-estimate their abilities in life.

In a hundred or two hundred years at the most, hardly anybody will know who Bill Gates, Donald Trump or Angela Merkel were. And as for the two of us – you, dear reader, and me – a few decades after we’re gone nobody will spare us a second thought. – Rolf Dobelli

Inner Success (Why Your Input is more important than your output). Magazines sometimes produce a list of the most successful and powerful people in the world. Modern societies highlight material success a lot. Why are there no lists for people who are the most satisfied? Definitions of success depends on the product of their time. Don’t follow others blindly. Material success is 100% a matter of chance. True success is inner success. Once you have achieved tranquillity of the soul, you will be able to put up with slings and arrows. You can control your input, but not your output. Inner success is more stable than external success. Take stock of your accomplishments at the end of each day. People desire external gain as it gives them internal gain.

Success is a peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming. – John Wooden

Afterword. The good life is no easy task. Instead of relying on intuition, one should be aware of the biases/heuristics that the mind is susceptible to. Intellectual tools are more important than money. If your friend is not leading a good life, you will know it instantly. This book has provided insights on Stoicism. Throughout this book, I have quoted Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett. This book combines the principles of modern psychology, Stoicism and the philosophy of value investing.

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The Art of the Good Life: 52 Surprising Shortcuts to Happiness, Wealth and Success by Rolf Dobelli (Part 3)

The Book of Worries (How to Switch off the Loudspeaker in Your Head). Everyone has to have the right setting on anxiety. That’s the way humans were wired, to be slightly anxious and wary of our surroundings. In the past, anxiety was useful as it ensured the survival of humans. But in modern day, such anxiety is unproductive. Anxiety will simply affect your sleep quality. Excessive anxiety will lead to stress. Fear is enough. There isn’t a switch to turn off the loudspeaker in your head. One trick is to write down your anxieties in a book at a fixed time everyday. Think about the worst possible consequences. Take out insurance. Focused work can definitely help against brooding as it very fulfilling in nature.

Determine what you can influence and what you can’t. Address the former. Don’t let the latter prey on your mind. – Rolf Dobelli

The Opinion Volcano (Why you’re Better Off Without Opinions). Difficult questions require thought and not simply muttering an opinion. The human brain is a volcano of opinions. We express opinions on topics which do not interest us. It would be better for you to shut up. We think we know answers on unanswerable questions. We give over-hasty answers to complex questions. The trick is to not keep on feeling that you need to give an opinion. Select the topics of your interest carefully. Writing is the ideal way to organize your thoughts. Question your own opinion to see if it can stand up to scrutiny.

Your Mental Fortress (The Wheel of Fortune). One needs to accept the existence of fate. Everything can be turned on their head all of a sudden. Everything you own, value and love is ephemeral. These things are fleeting and temporary. Thirdly, understand that the positive outweighed the negative in your life and that all sweet things are tinged with bitterness. However, no one can take your thoughts and your mental tools. These are the principles of stoicism. Happiness can only found in your mental strength and resolve, not in a Porsche collection.

Envy (Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall). Envy is one of the most toxic emotions. It has many destructive powers. Envy is one of the most important sources of unhappiness. Envy is an animal instinct. The trick is to stay clear of comparisons in order to enjoy a good life. Social media also contains information about others. Do not be envious of the neighbour’s car as car is unlikely to be able to bring someone happiness.

This is the interesting thing about envy: the more we compare ourselves with others, the greater the danger of jealousy. – Rolf Dobelli

The images uploaded have nothing to do with your friends’ normal lives. They’ve been meticulously curated, giving the fake impression that others in your social circle are doing better than they really are. – Rolf Dobelli

Prevention (Avoid Problems Before You Have to Solve Them). What is wisdom? It is a practical ability which we need to navigate life. Avoidance isn’t sexy. Successes achieved through prevention are invisible to others. The financial press loves a good turnaround manager. Hence, we underemphasize the role of some people in society. It is better to steer clear of danger because of your wisdom of foresight.

Mental Relief Work (Why You’re Not Responsible for the State of the World). Sometimes, we hear about the injustices in the world. However, there is nothing we can do about them personally. Most catastrophes are more complex than they seem to be. Don’t overestimate your ability. If you want to help reduce suffering on the planet, donate money. Voluntary work using your time is largely unproductive and you would be better off investing in your circle of competence. It would be smarter to pay and let the professionals do the work. Drastically restrict your news consumption – especially when it comes to catastrophes. Evil is all around us, and some things are hard to prevent. You’re not responsible for the state for the world.

The Focus Trap (How to Manage Your Most Important Resource). Focus is important, but you need to know where to direct it. The problem is that in modern society we are distracted by many notifications etc. Focus is an important resource. Don’t confuse what is new with what’s relevant. Avoid content or technology that’s free. Avoid absorbing information from multimedia as books are less distracting. Act from a position of strength. Focus can affect your happiness directly too.

If you deliberately focus your attention, you’ll get more out of life. Be critical, strict and careful when it comes to your intake of information – no less critical, strict and careful than you are with your food or medication. – Rolf Dobelli

Read Less, but Twice – On Principle (We’re Reading Wrong). Get through life via 50 books that you have read. I can faintly recall the content of books I have read. Little of the books you have read, you can remember. What’s the point of reading a book if you can’t remember the content? Why do humans retain so little of what we read? The problem is that we are not selective or thorough enough. Now, I am more selective with my reading and sometimes even read the same book twice. When young, read widely and do not restrict yourself. This is the stage where you are improving your powers of judgment. After you are 30, be very selective about what you read.

The effect of reading twice isn’t twice the effect of reading once. It’s much greater – judging by my own experience, I’d put it at a factor of ten. – Rolf Dobelli

The Dogma Trap (Why Ideologues Oversimplify Things). Humans think we know things very well until we are forced to explain them. This is the knowledge illusion. Special issues require a lot of thought. We need to account for the effects of the effects of doing something. Ideologies are very dangerous. Notice when you are falling for an ideology. An ideology is one which can seemingly explain everything. Remember to give dogmas a wide berth.

Mental Subtraction (How to Realize that You’re Happy). How generally happy are you with your life? Gratitude is an important feeling which you need to be appreciative of. Gratitude might not work because of habituation and we get used to things. Instead of focusing on the positives, mental subtraction works too. It can help to boost happiness. Think about how much you’d miss the things you do have if you didn’t have them any longer.

Our happiness is sometimes not very salient. We need to do what we can to make it more so. Imagine playing a piano and not being able to hear what it sounds like. Many activities in life are like playing a piano that you do not hear. – Rolf Dobelli

The Point of Maximum Deliberation (Thinking Is to Acting Like a Torch is to a Floodlight). The best ideas come to you while you write them down. Action speaks louder than words. Doing beats talking anytime. The world is opaque to us. To go beyond what we know, we have to forge ahead and act. This is the point of maximum deliberation. This is when all the facts are laid on the table and you have digested them. Meditation won’t help you anymore, if there are no more new acts. Stranded on an island, who would you rather be by your side? Your partner? A Consultant? A boatbuilder? You won’t achieve the good life simply by thinking about things you ought to do. Self-inquiry will get you bogged down in moodiness, vague thoughts etc.

An entrepreneur won’t know whether a product will be successful until she produces it and launches it onto the market – no matter how much consumer research she’s done. – Rolf Dobelli

If you’re simply thinking something over, you’ll never bump up against reality, which means you can never fail. Act, however, and suddenly failure is back on the cards – but you’ll gain new experiences. – Rolf Dobelli

Other People’s Shoes (Role Reversal). Sometimes, it helps to take the place of someone else. The issue might be resolved more quickly. You got to see things from someone’s else perspective. Role reversal is a quick way to build mutual understanding. Reading novels can help you to build empathy fast.

Being immersed in a good novel, accompanying the protagonist throughout both highs and lows, is an efficient workaround that sits somewhere between thinking and doing. – Rolf Dobelli

The Illusion of Changing the World (Part 1 – Don’t Fall for the “Great Men” Theory). Can you really change the world? Modern society are very optimistic for the individual. We see ourselves as engineers of the world. However, the idea that any individual can change the world is a grand illusion. The first problem is the focusing illusion. We over-estimate the importance of our projects. The next bias is the intentional stance such as ‘without Einstein, there would be no relativity theory’. However, without such great people, things would have happened, just with someone else at the helm. Individual humans do not shape history, but there are a myriad of factors driving it. Do not cling on to the illusion, that you can be a great man yourself.

The Illusion of Changing the World (part 2 – Why you shouldn’t put anyone on a pedestal – least of all yourself). Other inventors, if Edison wasn’t around, would have invented the light bulb. Hence, the light bulb would still have been invented. Technology will find its inventors, not vice versa. Even without Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, things would not have changed much. Even outstanding CEOs can’t control market forces. A lot of them are forgotten people already. Hence, we need to be modest about our own achievements.

No matter how extraordinary your accomplishments might be, the truth is that they would have happened you. Your personal impact on the world is minute. It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are. – Rolf Dobelli

The only place where you can really make a difference is in your own life. Focus on your own surroundings. You’ll soon see that getting to grips with that is ambitious enough. Why take it upon yourself to change the world? Spare yourself the disappointment. – Rolf Dobelli

The ‘Just World’ Fallacy (Why Our Lives Aren’t Like Classic Crime). We believe in justice and equality and cannot bear injustice. We believe good deeds will be rewarded and bad deeds will be punished. We need to accept the unfairness of the world. In life, we have to put up with a bit of unfairness. Humans like to think everything will turn out fine. The world is fundamentally amoral. Part of the good life is to accept that not everything is fine.

The things that happen to you across the course of your life, especially the more serious blows of fate, have little to do with whether you’re a good or a bad person. So accept unhappiness and misfortune with stoicism and calm. – Rolf Dobelli

Cargo Cults (Don’t Build Planes out of Straw). Many people try to emulate their idol’s behavior or mannerisms, but they can’t achieve the same success. Auditors like to tick boxes, but are so good at identifying risks. Avoid companies that reward ceremony over achievement. Learn to understand what truly made people successful first.

Star far away from any type of cargo cult. And be on your guard: the substanceless imitation of form is more common than we think. – Rolf Dobelli

If You Run Your Own Race, You Can’t Lose (Why General Knowledge is Only Useful as a Hobby). You can recite facts about your own area of expertise. However, what do you know outside your expertise? The more you fill your brain with specialized knowledge, the less you will have for general knowledge. We see ourselves as versatile specialists. Our general knowledge gets affected by this. Our ancestors were better at more things, because they didn’t specialize. Now, society only rewards the specialists. If you are not the best in your field, you will have to specialize further. It is okay to have some general knowledge, but you won’t make a career out of it and do not spend excessive amount of time on it.

The Arms Race (Why You Should Avoid the Field of Battle). Students are trapped in a paper race, because others have degrees too. However, taking into account the education cost, they are barely better off than those without degrees. If you are in an arms race, get out if you can. Find a niche where there is no competition. Find a niche where you can operate smoothly and confidently. Humans are pressured to do many things in modern society. If you want a career as a musician, avoid the piano and the violin as there is too much competition in the area. Steer clear of arms race.

Making Friends with Weirdos (Get to know Outsiders but Don’t be one Yourself). People who do not belong in groups can be very successful too, like Einstein. Many of these people can be termed as outsiders. They enjoy an advantage as they don’t have protocols to slow them down. They also look more deeply and learn to question the status quo more. There is an appeal to being one. However, do not be one. Only the brightest outsiders can succeed. Your best chance is not to leave the establishment. Make friends with outsiders and be interested in their work. Practice reciprocity and tolerance. Surround yourself with smart people and outsiders as they might give you a fresh perspective on things and life.

The Secretary Problem (Why Our Sample Sizes are too Small). If you have 100 people to interview for the secretary position, how would you go about it? Take the first good candidate? Or interview many and then assess the feel of the quality of the pool? Statistically, one should interview the first 37 candidates and reject them all; however, you should monitor their quality. Then you should continue interviewing until you find someone better than the previous 37 and then hire her. Although it may not be directly applicable to real life, it can give you guidelines about how long we should be spending time testing things before making a final decision. Try out different options in life first. Understand what are the different options out there. We tend to make decisions too soon and too hasty. Sometimes, our sample size are too small. The trick is to take as many samples as you while you are still young. Be receptive and learn.

Read widely, because novels and short stories are excellent simulations of life. Only as you age should you adapt your modus operandi and become highly selective. By then you’ll know what you like and what you don’t. – Rolf Dobelli

9781473667495

The Art of the Good Life: 52 Surprising Shortcuts to Happiness, Wealth and Success by Rolf Dobelli (Part 2)

The Circle of Competence (Why It’s Important to Know Your Limits). In the circle are the skills you have mastered. Know your circle of competence and stick within it. Focus on your circle of competence in your career. You should not do things outside the circle of your competence. One often feels tempted to broaden your area of competence, but you shouldn’t do it. To master something, a lot of time will be required. It also involves a certain level of obsession. Be realistic and know that you suck at certain things in life. One outstanding skill can trump many mediocre ones.

The Secret of Persistence (Why Bores Are More Successful than Adventurers). Classy investors buy a handful of companies and they keep them. To avoid transaction costs, they buy and sell as infrequently as possible. They take advantage of a long term horizon. Longevity has its benefits as there are many old books which are still bestsellers even today. Our brains do not have instinct for duration. Long term successes are important. One can be more productive in a peaceful environment. Stick to your circle of competence for as long as possible once you have a rewarding hobby. Perseverance and tenacity are highly valuable virtues.

The Tyranny of a Calling (Do What You Can, Not What You Wish You Could). How can find your calling? People believe there is a bud waiting to be formed inside of you. However, the problem will callings are that they are illusions. A calling that makes you happy is false. Don’t go blindly chasing your ambitious goals and feel depressed if you don’t achieve them. We often only see cases of selection bias, where we see people with a calling being successful. Build on the skills you have. The skills you have mastered are the things you enjoy doing most of the time. Other people have got to value your talents.

You can pursue a craft with love, of course, and even with a touch of obsession, but your focus should always be on the activity, the work, the input – not on the success, the result, the output. – Rolf Dobelli

The Prison of a Good Reputation (How to Shift from External to Internal Validation). Bob Dylan didn’t acknowledge his Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. Grigori Perelman declined the Fields Medal for Mathematics. He is indifferent to what the world thinks of him. As you grow older, you feel that public perception has little to do with the quality of your work. This is the difference between someone with an inner vs outer scorecard. In the past, people were more concerned about their outer scorecard and what others thought of them. Humans spend 90% of the time talking about other people. However, in modern day, what others think of it is far less important. People are approval seeking machines on social media. People are going to comment on whatever please them. Don’t simply crave recognition but rather focus on achieving something.

Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover? Or would you rather be the world’s worst lover but have everyone think you’re the world’s greatest lover? – Warren Buffett

People will gossip and tittle-tattle behind your back. They’ll heap you with praise and drag you into shitstorms. You can’t control it. – Rolf Dobelli

The ‘End of History’ Illusion (You Can Change Yourself – but Not Other People). How much have you changed over the last 10 years? In terms of personality, character, temperament, values etc. When asked, most people feel that they won’t change a lot in the next 10 to 20 years. However, it isn’t true that personalities stop developing over time. The good news is that adults can exercise some influence over changes in your personality. Use your idols and be careful of the people you want to admire. The bad news is that you can’t change other people, not even your partner. Motivation has to come from within. One of the key rules of a good life is to ‘Avoid situations in which you have to change other people.’ Do not hire someone where you have to change their character. Skills can be trained, but attitudes can’t be changed easily.

Oh, it’s just so useful dealing with people you can trust and getting all the others the hell out of your life… But wise people want to avoid other people who are just total rat poison, and there are a lot of them. – Charlie Munger

The Smaller Meaning of Life (Which Goals You Can Achieve – and Which You Can’t). Our lives consist of many facets. It is very difficult to answer the question of ‘Who you are’. You should ask about what your purpose in life is. Stop trying to look for the larger meaning of life. However, you should ask yourself about the smaller meaning of life, your goals, ambitions, mission etc. Life goals are very important and it is important to set a few. Goals are useful because they put you in the mood for accomplishing them. Goals make decision-making easier. Life consists of making forks in the road. Goals need to be realistic though.

There is no discernable overarching purpose – not for humanity, life or the universe. The world is fundamentally meaningless. So stop looking for the “larger meaning of life”. You’re only wasting your time. – Rolf Dobelli

Your Two Selves (Why Your Life Isn’t a Photo Album). You have two selfs, the experiencing self and the remembering self. A human can hardly recall moments in the past. We can’t retain our experiences well. The remembering self has better retention and perhaps you can remember the awesome praline that you ate 24 hours ago. The experiencing self is only concerned with a 3 second interval. Our two selves often give contrasting replies. The remembering self tends to recall happy memories as compared to the experiencing self. Humans suffer from duration neglect. The problem of this that our remembering selves tend to value short-term fun more than long term ones. We need to rely on both selves and cannot simply ignore either one.

Humans remember most clearly the peak of an episode, ie., the moment of greatest intensity, and the end. Hardly anything else filters through into our memories. – Rolf Dobelli

Not even duration matters. Whether you’re on holiday for one week or three, your memory of it will be roughly the same. Likewise, whether you’re in prison for a month or a year, it makes no difference to your memory – the specific amount of time spent behind bars will be forgotten. – Rolf Dobelli

The Memory Bank. How much are you willing to pay for an ideal experience? Imagine what would be your most wonderful experience and jot down a price you would pay for it. How much would you pay for it if you weren’t able to remember it afterwards? To many, experiences only count if you can remember them. This is known as a memory bank. But this is weird, because doesn’t what you experience in the moment count? Animals have moments, but few or no memories. This is when we need to value our experiencing self more. Trying to recall happy moments are good, but shouldn’t you just try to enjoy the present as well? The human memory ain’t great and you will struggle to recall things. Even if we can recall, we can only recall the high point and the ending.

Memories are one-dimensional, shallow, abstract, frequently mistaken, partially fabricated and ultimately unproductive. In short, we overvalue memory and undervalue the experienced moment. – Rolf Dobelli

A life of wondrous yet forgotten moments is still a wondrous life, so stop thinking of experiences as deposits for your memory bank. One day you’ll be on your deathbed, and your account will be permanently closed. – Rolf Dobelli

Life Stories are Lies (Why We Go Through the World with a False Self-Image). We act smart and we need to know a lot via our knowledge of past events. Our brain sometimes does not remember information accurately. It remembers processed data and captures stories more vividly. Stories are things that are made up by humans. By turning it into a story, humans can remember things better. The 3Cs are used, compact, consistent, casual. Adults change as they age, more than they think they will. We tend to think that we are smarter than we actually are. This is known as self-serving bias. The trick to overcome this is to ask your friends what they think of you. Every human has their shortcomings and dark sides and it is important to see things realistically.

The ‘Good Death’ Fallacy (Why Your Final Moments Shouldn’t Worry You). When you have a terminal illness, you won’t have the ability to engage in philosophical reflection. Even if you can remember, chances are it won’t be accurate. Humans suffer from duration neglect. We have trouble evaluating how attractive other people’s lives are. Of course when you are old, you would not have such a good time as when you were younger. The key is just to live well in the present.

More crucial still is that the way you feel in your final moments is totally irrelevant in the context of your whole life. Contemplating your hour of death is unproductive, and will only distract you from the good life. – Rolf Dobelli

Better a life well lived and a few painful days on your deathbed than a shoddy life and a good death. – Rolf Dobelli

The Spiral of Self-Pity (Why it makes no sense to wallow in the past). Self-pity is largely useless and one can enter an emotional whirlpool if sucked into it. It is an unhealthy thought pattern that should be stopped. One has to accept their wrongs and move on. Blaming others has their own expiry date too. Childhood events have little impact on adult personality. You could blame your genes, but that won’t change anything. Life isn’t perfect to begin with.

If you can do something to mitigate the current problems in your life, then do it. If you can’t, then put up with the situation. Complaining is a waste of time, and self-pity is doubly counterproductive. – Rolf Dobelli

Whenever you think that some situation or some person is ruining your life, it is actually you who are ruining your life… Feeling like a victim is a perfectly disastrous way to go through life. – Rolf Dobelli

Hedonism and Eudemonia (How Meaning Can Compensate for Enjoyment – and the Other Way Around). Meaningful activities need not be enjoyable. What should you be focusing your time on? Enjoyable or meaningful activities? Instant gratification can seem animalistic. Striving for the higher pleasures for deemed as Eudaimonia. Every experienced moment has 2 components: pleasurable and meaningful. Good films also need to have a meaningful component. Some graduates are willing to take a pay cut to engage in meaningful projects. One needs to strike a balance between enjoyment and meaning.

The Circle of Dignity – Part 1 (But If Not). ‘But if not’ means ‘over my dead body’. This means issues that are not for negotiation. This is like your individual pledge. It protects you from 3 forms of attack: a) better arguments; b) mortal danger; c) deals with the Devil. You need to know where your boundaries lie. One should have a clearly demarcated circle of dignity. This is the solid ground you can fall upon. It crystallizes with time, around middle age. You need to know which principles you want to defend, and which you are prepared to give up. These are your core principles and beliefs which you need to defend.

The Circle of Dignity – Part 2 (If You Break on the Outside). You have to tell others what you believe in. You have to cherish your own will and keep persevering. People might attack our preferences, principles etc. They might be subtle and we might not even notice them. Each arrow can hurt your self-esteem and weaken your immune system. Verbal attacks can be very painful as well. This is one of the keys to a good life.

The Circle of Dignity – Part 3 (The Devil’s Bargain). What does it mean to sell your soul? Offer each money and the owner weakens. What are the things so sacred to you that you will not sell them at any price? What about your health and your opinions? We have to defend our principles against a) better arguments; b) mortal danger; c) deal with the devil. The trick is to defend your circle of dignity sharply. Everything in your circle is non-negotiable.

9781473667495

The Art of the Good Life: 52 Surprising Shortcuts to Happiness, Wealth and Success by Rolf Dobelli (Part 1)

Foreword. Since centuries ago, people have been asking themselves on what it means to live a good life? Is it better to seek happiness or to avoid unhappiness? The world is complicated and there is no simple solution. We need mental tools and models to rely on. This book is based on research as well as knowledge from ancient times. The tips from the book should help you navigate the challenges in life.

Mental Accounting (How to Turn a Loss into a Win). A speed camera on the expressway captured my car speed and I was going too fast. I used to be angry with such instances. However, now I smile when I receive summons. I pay the fines using money which I have set aside for good causes every year. This is known as mental accounting. You are tricking yourself into giving yourself a peace of mind. The fact has happened, but you can choose how to interpret the event. Living a good life has a lot to do with interpreting facts in a constructive way. To take the sting out of payment, you can pay first and consume later. When something has become a little more expensive/cheaper, I don’t think about it. I rather save my energy than money. You will help to retain your inner poise. Mental accounting will teach you to value your time.

The Fine Art of Correction (Why We Overestimate Set-Up). During a flight, the pilot constantly makes readjustments to the flight path. When things don’t go according to plan, we have to navigate. We can’t take our hands off the steering wheel. Our live is exposed to turbulence. Correction is more important than the set-up. The human body works in this way to fight viruses and bacteria too. In every relationship, fine-tuning is crucial too. We don’t like to correct because we feel we were right at the start. The US Constitution has been amended dozens of times already. There is no such thing as ideal training.

As an amateur pilot I’ve learned that it’s not so much the beginning that matters but the art of correction following take-off. – Rolf Dobelli

The Pledge (Inflexibility as a Stratagem). Clayton Christensen, an author, lives his life according to pledges. A pledge means an absolute commitment. This indicates inflexible behavior. However, when it comes to important issues, flexibility is not an advantage but a trap. This is because new decisions require willpower and lead to decision fatigue. Pledging saves your mental energy. Pledging means you are consistent on many topics. Pledges must be very firm and you must not waver.

Chain yourself to your pledges. Uncompromisingly. It’s easier to stick to your pledges 100% of the time rather than 99%. – Rolf Dobelli

Black Box Thinking (Reality Doesn’t Care About Your Feelings; or, Why Every False Step Improves Your Life). The black box in the plane was an indestructible box that can retrieve conversations in the cockpit so that it is easier to determine the cause of a crash. Black box thinking means radical acceptance of the truth and analyzing your actions. Your illness will still be there whether you want to focus on it or not. Self-deception is not compatible with a good life. The fact is that you are poor at something could be indeed true. Radical acceptance of defeats is part of life. Build your own black box. When making a big decision, think of what is going through your mind. Black box thinking can also work on a personal level. Tackle the problem at the source.

The world isn’t remotely interested in what you think of it or how you feel. Banish all such obscurantist tactics from your brain. – Rolf Dobelli

Accepting reality is easy when you like what you see, but you’ve got to accept it even when you don’t – especially when you don’t. – Rolf Dobelli

To put it another way, if you can’t spot where you put a foot wrong, you’re going to fall flat on your face again. Persistence in your analysis will pay off. – Rolf Dobelli

Counterproductivity (Why Timesavers are Often Timewasters). A car improved efficiency by many fold over horse carriages. Although it seemingly saves time, you have to factor in the time needed for maintenance, patrol, time caught in traffic jams. After factoring all these, the car has an average speed of 3.7mph. Technologies that seem good at the start needs to analyzed using a full cost analysis. For instance, powerpoint is great, but isn’t it a waste of time when you can get the message across using something simpler. Therefore, it is important to be on your guard against counterproductivity. Keep only the bare essentials. Technology can actually be a burden. The author is against modern technology, like smart devices.

A basic rule of the good life is as follows: if it doesn’t genuinely contribute something, you can do without it. – Rolf Dobelli

The Negative Art of the Good Life (Do nothing Wrong and the Right Thing Will Happen). Pilots simply want to avoid crashes. In investment, there is upside and downside. As long as you do the checks on the plane, you should be safe and minimize the downside. Like in tennis, you are likely to win if you minimize on your errors and play conservatively. What makes people happy? The literature does not contain much information. However, we can pinpoint what makes people unhappy: alcoholism, drug addiction, chronic stress, noise, long commute etc. Thus, the trick in life is to eliminate the downside as much as possible.

The Ovarian Lottery (Why You Didn’t Earn your Successes). Happiness is something you have. How much of success can be attributable to your own actions? Sometimes, it is because you were simply born in a good place. Where we are born definitely influences our success in a big way. The same also matters for the family you were brought up in. Timing is important. We are also a blend of our parent’s genes. For quite a number of things, you owe it to your genes. You haven’t really earned your achievements. You definitely need on others to be successful. Grateful people are demonstrably happier people.

Six percent of all the people who have been born over the last 300,000 years – since Homo Sapiens populated the world – are alive in the present day. They could just as easily have been born into another era; indeed, the probability of that is 94%. – Rolf Dobelli

The Introspection Illusion (Take Feelings Seriously – Just Not Your Own). Describe the objects in front of you. Describe what you feel about them right now. Our feelings are more nebulous. However, we are unable to express them clearly. You can’t achieve the good life through introspection. You are unlikely to achieve a certain purpose just by analyzing. Examine what are the recurring themes of your past and not analyze your feelings. Learn to read the emotions of others. Learn to treat your emotions less seriously. We need to cultivate a new relationship with our inner voices. Feelings will change over time and one should never be ‘owned’ by them. Repressing your emotions will only lead to them coming harder back at you. The key message is not to trust your emotions.

Take other people’s feelings very seriously, but not your own. Let them flit through you – they’ll come and go anyway, just as they please. – Rolf Dobelli

The Authenticity Trap (Why You need a Secretary of State). We all like to talk to authentic people However, do we want people to be too honest and forthcoming? Authenticity online are all staged. We don’t really know what authentic behavior is. There is simply no need to blurt out for innermost feelings. You can play your second self and keep promises and not blurt out personal feelings too often.

The Five-Second No (Small Favors, Big Pitfalls). How often do you say yes to favors without thinking? Do you reject others? When you keep helping others, you have less time for yourself. Co-operation was common in the animal kingdom because of survival. In game theory, the tit for tat works well. In the animal kingdom, animals believe in reciprocal altruism. Only apes have the ability to do it because they have a good memory. It keeps the economy going. However reciprocity has its dangers. Nowadays I say no to a lot of things which aren’t important to me. This is one of the key points of a good life.

The Focusing Illusion (Why You Wouldn’t be Happier in the Caribbean). When you are experiencing winter, you feel that you will be happier in the tropics on a beach somewhere. The more you focus, the greater the influence of the event. Because we are focusing on the climate only, we think Miami is superior. However, it is important to think about other factors. You assign the weather as overly important. Therefore, it is important not to overemphasize any single factor. The problem with humans is that it is not easy to view things from an ultra-wide lens. The grass usually looks good on the other side. The focusing illusion is bad and you need to be aware when it happens.

Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it. – Daniel Kahneman

The Things You Buy Leave no Real Trace (Why You Should Buy less and Experience More). How much pleasure do you get from your car? It seems that people do. We tend to overemphasize the impact an object can give us. When you think of the car, you seem happy. However, when you think about using and maintaining it, probably you won’t feel as happy. Expensive objects tend to have higher upkeep and you get used to them after a while. When you experience something, you are fully present. Try to experience more and it is also usually cheaper. We overestimate the impact of purchases on our wellbeing.

While you’re thinking about X, you tend to grossly over-estimate X’s impact on your life. – Rolf Dobelli

Fuck-You Money (Saving Up Freedom). There is a diminishing marginal utility to things you consume, like water even if you are very thirsty. This holds true for money. Think about how much money you need to earn before you feel that additional income will not have any impact on your wellbeing. A decent income is needed for survival, but beyond that, it doesn’t bring you a lot of additional happiness. Rich people have more things to worry about. Life satisfaction for Americans in the 1946 and 1970s were largely the same, according to Easterlin. Wealth is relative, not absolute. Hence, this is the problem that humans face. Fuck-you money are the savings that will allow you to quit your job without you ending up in financial trouble. Don’t think too much about money and worry about slight fluctuations in your portfolio. Don’t compare yourself with the rich or you will feel unhappy. Live modestly even if you are rich as wealth makes people jealous. Genuine success is not financial in nature.

This revelation has been termed the Easterlin paradox: once basic needs have been met, incremental financial gain contributes nothing to happiness. – Rolf Dobelli

9781473667495

Why We Hate Cheap Things by The School of Life

Why We Hate Cheap Things. In the past, pineapples were expensive and people who bought them kept them as status symbols until they rotted and fell apart. It had almost a ritual quality. Savoring one was like a luxury. The top of the South Towers of St Paul had this divine fruit being perched on it. By the end of the 19th century, technology enabled large plantations to be built. Now, it is no longer deemed as a rare fruit. When the price falls, we become less passionate. In the past, when flying was dangerous and expensive, it seemed thrilling. Now, taking a flight on a commercial aircraft seems a little boring. We definitely do not appreciate the skies as much as Leonardo da Vinci would. The same can be said about having a hot bath. In the past, heating the water was considered difficult. It was largely reserved for war heroes or for the very rich. Now, it is a very common experience and some might even view it as a waste of time. We view cheap prices with a lack of value. Due to the Industrial Revolution, we are now able to make things cheaply. In the past, because of hand labour, more expensive things were associated with higher quality. There was a price to pay for craftsmanship. People hoped that with industrialization, prices would fall. In 1911, the commercial car was born. However, industrialization might have robbed certain experiences of loveliness, interest and worth. Now, it might seem bizarre if we are interested over cheap things. We now favor the things that are expensive. A child’s mind is more curious and wonder-like in nature. Children do not understand money. They can be obsessed with things that do not cost a lot. To adults, costs = value. Over time, when children understand money, they believe that saving for a big purchase is good. The artist Paul Cezanne was obsessed with painting apples and noticing their texture. Every apple exuded their own colour and aura. He was excited over apples, even though he was extremely rich. The fact of life is that we can get great things for little money. We have given up on too many of our native loves. In the modern society, we are drawn into advertising. The issue is that cheap but useable objects do not have sufficient advertising.

We need advertising pursued with the same sense of drama and intensity and ambition but directed towards biros, puddles and olives. – The School of Life

There are two ways to get richer: one is to make more money; the second is to discover that more of the things we could love are already to hand. – The School of Life

Contemplation of the history of the pineapple suggests a curious overlap between love and economics: when we have to pay a lot for something nice, we appreciate it to the full. – The School of Life

A reduction in our esteem for an experience follows a reduction in the cost of obtaining it. – The School of Life

This means that we often end up feeling that we can’t afford good things and that our lives are therefore sad and incomplete. The money hierarchy constantly makes us feel impoverished, while the truth is that there are more good things within our grasp than we believe. – The School of Life

Why We Look Down on People Who Don’t Earn Very Much. If you don’t earn a lot, what you say is unlikely to command much respect. There seems to be a link between talent, effort, skill and income. This is capitalism for you. A person’s wages are determined by the scale of their social contribution. Economics would say that wages solely depend on demand vs supply. Christianity insisted that a person’s worth has no relation to their financial standing. Whether you go to heaven depends on merits. Karl Marx thought that workers should be paid based on their contributions to society. This meant that the wages of the hitmen, casino owners would do down while that of the nurse and the farmer would go up. In the past, lacemaking was a job which was poorly paid. Many painters noticed this and painted pictures of lace-makers at their craft. The artists hoped that through their paintings, more would appreciate the lacemaking craft. Art gives us a sense of a person’s true merit and a willingness to disregard wages. Art can be the answer to bridge the gap between money and human value.

We recognize the phenomenon in our society well enough: the more someone earns, the more they are likely to be admired by strangers, and perceived as interesting and exciting. – The School of Life

On Being an Unemployed Arts Graduate. Arts graduates complain about finding employment. Some of them are also underpaid. Some people can’t understand why artists should be paid to study history. People lack a real understanding of what the humanities are about and how it can benefit humanity. The universities also can’t explain why students should pursue humanities. Humanities are the closest we have to replace religion. They are bodies of work that teach us how to lead our lives. We need to reinvent universities. There are practical aspects of reading 19th century literature. Humans crave nourishment as well. There needs to be a new definition of culture.

Good Materialism. Materialism is generally seen as bad. Is there such a thing as good materialism? We have failed to distinguish good from bad materialism. Even religious people have made material items, like shrines, artworks etc. They did so because they believed it developed their souls. Some material possessions can be seen as transubstantiation, where they have both a practical and physical form. Material objects can have a spiritual role in our lives. They can give us a chance to understand ourselves better. We should only purchase things which can lead to the better encouragement of ourselves.

We are still enmeshed in the desire to possess – but we are encouraged to feel rather bad about it. – The School of Life

Why We Are So Bad at Shopping. We need to learn how to shop. Shopping for others is tricky, but we don’t seem to think so for ourselves. Capitalism is supposed to provide us with unlimited options. However, humans are influenced by group instincts. There are very standard consumer patterns in our economy. Our shopping choices are really not that personal. Humans like to follow trends etc. They like to buy what it is fashion in the modern age. We do not want to appear weird in front of our friends. We do not analyze pleasurable activities much. Product reviews don’t help us too much as well.

Part of the problem is that we lack the ability to know, looking back over experiences, what truly brought us pleasure. Our brains aren’t so keen on taking apart their satisfactions – and therefore plotting how to recreate them. – The School of Life

It isn’t that we are too focused on shopping, we are not thinking deeply enough about what we’re doing. We haven’t yet learnt to be doggedly precise enough about pinning down our own fun and making sure we get it. – The School of Life

Using Sex to Sell. Using sex to sell seems cheap and low-class. Ficino believed that humans will move from sex to love. The next stage would be to long and have the capacity to understand. To get someone to understand something, it would to get the person interested in sex. Ficino suggested to Lorenzo to paint pictures of beautiful and sexy people. There is nothing wrong to use it and it has been used in the Renaissance period. However, it is useful to sell something noble. Once our senses are ignited, it is easier to learn. However, there is a need to sell things like books related to wisdom and philosophy.

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