Single tasking in a stoic manner and avoiding being counterproductive; Dissecting Meditations, a personal journal by Marcus Aurelius Part #13

What you are getting into: 381 words, 2mins read

Here, I will share my contemplations upon reading the published personal journal of Marcus Aurelius, a roman emperor from 161-180 AD. Thoughts mainly stemmed from Stoicism, and Marcus Aurelius used the notes for guidance and self improvement. It’s a translated book by Gregory Hays, or you can read it online.

For this and upcoming posts I attempt to dissect quotes I favour upon reading the book.


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If someone asked you how to write your name, would you clench your teeth and spit out the letters one by one? If he lost his temper, would you lose yours as well? Or would you spell out the individual letters?

Remember — your responsibilities can be broken down into individual parts as well. Concentrate on those, and finish the job methodically — without getting stirred up or meeting anger with anger.

Focus on the job. Focus. It is everything we can do. Without focus how else are we going to accomplish anything worth pursuing? Trying to juggle many projects at once will produce mediocre results. Expend your limited attention only on a few tasks. Even better, single tasking will output excellent results.

Next, many times due to our ego, we may engage in detrimental behaviour. Sometimes unconsciously! Possessing high amount of ego does no one any good. The conversation goes nowhere and everyone gets held back because of our own ego. What good it is when you one-up the others and get nothing done at the end of the day? This not only hold back your progress, you are holding back others from progressing as well — this is a selfish notion and it’s called being counterproductive. Remember, getting shit done is what matters; getting your ego satisfied produces nothing.

Fighting fire with fire fuels fire. Same goes for reacting to an angry person with anger. From an innocuous question to a full fledged shouting match. No wonder the Gods are laughing at us! Marcus Aurelius wrote to remind himself to get the job done methodically despite being the Roman Emperor — he actually has absolute power to indulge in authoritative abuse.

I suggest the following:

  • Think about putting your ego aside and focus on the objectives;
  • Focus on getting the work completed with the least amount of friction and effort;
  • If you find that others are often the ones being counterproductive, check yourself, you may be the counterproductive one instead of others.

Believing the phrase ‘everything is just a google search away’ is hurting your success in life

What you are getting into: 664 words, 4mins read + 4mins video

critical_thinking

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“It is shortchanging our intellect if you believe everything is just a google search away.” — Nicholas Carr

Internet is changing our brains.

The world we live in is hyper connected. A lot information is just a google search away. Hundreds of thousands of content are created every single day. Billions of emails sent per day. You won’t even be able finish YouTube videos uploaded a day in your entire lifetime.

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A google search typically yields millions of web results. We typically read a few articles and start forming an idea of what’s happening. So, have you ever questioned if the top few results are manipulated by SEO experts and therefore the content you googled were ‘false’? The first few results may not be the absolute truth. Same goes for news publications (countries’ news censorship) and social media. It’s content are carefully crafted for the mass public, think public relations.

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Studies show that the average person spends 50mins on Facebook every single day. If you sleep for 8hrs, work for 8hrs, spend 2hrs on basic survival and hygiene like eating and bathing, 50mins of Facebook time is 13% of your free time. That’s not even counting commute time which the average person would have. If the average person spends 13% of their free time on Facebook, with the recent rise of fake news, how do they form an educated and informed opinion?

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Disclaimer: I am not against the plethora of information available on the internet. It serves us well. It helps us to connect with people all over the world. Thus making everyone even closer, and humanity a little better.

Ask yourself honestly, when was the last time you spent time doing nothing, without getting bored?

When was the last time you spent some time daydreaming?

When was the last time you read a book without distractions? Enjoyed a good book without the constant buzz of notifications?

And when was the last time you had an opinion without googling for answers?

When was the last time you questioned the source of information? Be it news, books, articles, podcasts, MOOCs, Youtube tutorials, messages circulated via chat apps, etc. You have been well informed about the rise of fake news and how it is being contained at the moment. Even for mass media, sometimes news publications are politically controlled too. Do you believe everything you read, especially online?

Depending on where you are and where you get your source of news, it is really important to think about the relevance, validity, context, and accuracy of the content.

Nicholas then proposed these key points to practice:

  1. Pay attention
  2. Control your mind
  3. Think conceptually
  4. Think critically
  5. Think creatively

How much of your opinions are formed based on the information you consume? How much do you consume? Are your opinions merely opinions or they are facts? Don’t confuse opinions vs facts.

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The 5 key points requires years of practice. If you would like, please feel free to deep dive into specific techniques. But before you do, may I suggest that you write them down, find a place to relax or go for a walk, and ponder about it — whether are you practicing them.

Now, if you have reached this point, turn off the internet if you can, and get some offline time to think. Go sit somewhere without computing devices or internet.

Get some headspace. Go back to the real world. Not everything exists on the internet.

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Respect the tools you use, buy the best you can afford

Tools of the trade.

Tools of the trade.

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A gentleman buys the best tools he can afford. He doesn’t scrimp on tools that allows him to ply his trade. He will not purchase something that is of a lesser quality and sacrifice usability because he respects the tools he uses.

A prime example is a computer. In today’s age, if you are a knowledge worker, chances are you work from a computer. Do you use a subpar computer that is slow and clunky? Do you find yourself needing a more powerful computer? A computer allows the knowledge worker to ply his trade, which in turn generates income. Therefore shouldn’t a knowledge worker use the best computer they can afford since it’s an income generating machine?

I have been thinking about big ticket expenses. How do I calculate their value? There are material items, tools, and experience. I’m not going into investment. Here’s how I see it:

  • Material items: Makes me look nice and presentable
  • Tools: Makes my life easier, tools of my trade
  • Experience: Makes my life interesting and worth living

Experience is considered the most expensive, because once you live it, there’s no reliving the same experience anymore. Yes you could document it with photos and videos, but some moments are best in real life. For example, take a one week modest travel, it may cost between USD$500-1500. As compared to a computer that may cost USD$1500. If well taken care of, it could last 5yrs, and it will cost you $1500/5/12/4=$6.25/week. Or a luxury item that you only use 5 times a year, the cost of using the item increases the lesser you use it. (Side note: It boggles my mind to see people wasting real life experience away by being on their phones all the time.)

My logic has a lot of flaws, mainly because certain big ticket expenses have got good reasons, economic reasons is not the only biggest factor. For example, purchasing a luxury watch if you’re a salesman signifies you’re doing well, that brings tremendous ROI.

Coming back to tools, I also try to get a tool that only do one thing well, rather than mediocre on many things. Multi-tools are usually subpar quality products jumbled up and sold at a premium price. It appears to have ‘a lot’ of functions you can use to justify the ‘value’ it brings.

FOCUS!!

FOCUS!!

Like a sushi chef, the knife is his tool of the trade, it forms the whole of his work. As should we, respecting the tools of our trade.