Advice

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons learned from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder

Every day when they were zapping through the 30 TV channels offered to them they would see Hitler documentaries. They had gone through the 20th century in Germany for what felt 3 years now. First they were studying it in their history lessons in 10th grade. Then they were studying different ideologies during their philosophy courses taking a deep dive into utilitarism, striving the so called social darwinism. Then they got to know how the mothers and fathers of the "Grundgesetz" (basic law) were implementing it to make sure things like the third reich won't ever happen again just to study the 20th century from beginning to end again in thirteenth grade.


A few weeks back I attended the ceremony for the Shimon-Peres-Price, when it was given to a project I’ve been part of. To be honest I did not know a lot about Shimon Peres but he’s a particularly interesting person. He used to be one of the first advocates for bilateral relationships between Israel and Germany. He was one of the first to say that should work together but never forget what happened. Germany is living a culture of embracing its past, of making sure that nobody forgets what our ancestors did. I do not know why but for the past 12 years, basically since I became old enough for such conversations, I overheard adults complain about just that. Adults in my family, friends of the family, strangers whenever one was bringing up that topic. Maybe they inherited this behavior from their ashamed parents, but maybe they’re just tired of hearing it just like I’m tired of hearing the same complaints from my grandmother every week. If so this raises the question: How do you remember and remind others of the dark ages of history?

On Tyranny - Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century answers this question perfectly. When I started reading this book, I thought it was just more of the same, but it gave me a lot of new insides. The author starts every chapter with a thesis of how to oppose those who seek to confuse the people, divide and reign and eventually set up a dictatorship of one way or the other. Every of theses theses is then supported by examples from the past and connections to the present are drawn. 

Especially the last chapter was interesting to me: The author describes two different ways of making politics: One announcing that things are inevitable while the other praises the good old times. While we’ve seen the first of them for quite some time, the latter one is rising in nearly every of the biggest economies: The U.S., France, the UK, Germany, we’ve seen it in Hungary and Poland and that is neglecting the other major players in the world such as Russia and China. How is the president saying he’s going to bring the US back into the good old times of 80 years ago? How is anyone thinking they can do this? How was Merkel able to say what the government did during the financial crisis was „alternativlos“ (inevitable)? How is the AfD, the „Alternative für Deutschland“ (Alternative for Germany), an alternative?

I could go on a multiple hours long rant right now, but I'll save that up for later. The question I was asking before is still open at this point: How can we remember this time and remind others in order to make sure no such thing ever occurs again? I think this book puts a great perspective on the topic as a whole. There is simply no judgement. There is no emotion. I think even the most ignorant person in the world could read this and draw their own conclusion. And it is a fairly short read of less than 150 pages in a small form factor. Go get it and read it, because you should

Get out of my way

This will definitely be one of my most favorite articles. Pascal must have been thinking something like this or something very similar as he was creating the draft for this post. It took only a year and a half to eventually get to write this post.

The biggest win in terms of productivity which I found for myself is that idea of getting out of my way. I found it somewhere between third and fourth semester in university. I had failed every exam during the first two semesters of my studies, but I had the will to finish my degree in the standard period of 5 years for the bachelor's and master's. The third semester was when I learned how to study, a skill which I hadn't picked up in school. 

I had and still have a very good friend who was in with me on that goal and so we agreed to learn for every exam together. 4 weeks of at least 5 days a week for one exam. In some kind that friend taught me that very important lesson. He was my trainer. He knew exactly how much time he needed for a given task and he had no excuses for himself. 

With him I learned to stop to complain about my tasks. I hated almost every second of studying, but together we just pushed through it. During that time I still managed to meet with people once or twice a week even though I was still visiting my grandmother once a week.

Here is what I think makes this so effective:

- If you just start attacking your problem, you won't procrastinate on your task for an hour before you start doing it anyways: 1 hour won

- If you know that you need to get shit down in order to be able to allow yourself to see your crush, you'll be a lot more motivated.

- We had one goal, we had a very clear task to execute in order for us to reach that goal and so the only discussion we had was whether or not to prolong the lunch break for 20 minutes more or not.

Only when I got out of this super working relationship I saw that I was performing better than most of my pears and I saw other struggle a lot with even starting a task. I've talked about James Clear's website a couple of times before and I still believe, it's a great resource for hacking your productivity. Start something now!

A year of why?

It happens to every single one of us. One day we wake up and we just wonder why we're doing all that stuff that doesn't really mean anything to us? For most people in my parent's generation this was called the midlife crisis as it was striking people in their 40's or 50's when they are pretty good in what they're doing professionally, the children have grown out of their teens and they finally understand that they've wasted a pretty big part of their lives chasing money or whatever was driving them. 

My generation however is obsessed with doing everything right in the first place. Don't make a mistake. Don't get into the treadmill of work to fast. Take a year of between school and university, do a work and travel, change jobs in between... . I've always been like that. Even though I couldn't afford to take a year of and I was kinda rushing through my studies, I never wanted to do anything meaningless.

I didn't write a lot of blog posts during the last year as I was jumping from one thing to another, but when I decided to go back to my blog and start writing again, I thankfully read my pages "Who I am" and "Me in 2021" again. What I found was that I had lost touch with the me of a year ago.

I started this blog because I want to help others, but for the better part of 2017 I've been fairly egotistical. I spent 4 months of 2016 more or less full-time in an unpaid refugee project in Berlin, yet I've hardly met any of my new friends. I've spent half a year obsessing about my position in the startup I've been working for, thinking about coding projects I wanted to get done in order to eventually cash in on those projects in one way or another. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and way to high cholesterol: At the age of 25 I'm taking 3 pills every day.

Reading those ideas I had for who I am and who I want to be, reconnected me in some way. I would recommend you to do something like this and revisit it every now and then. I made some changes to those pages and I'm certain that I'll be changing a lot more in the future, but some things are not meant to be changed that easily. Changing them will make you feel uneasy, stressed and you won't like the position you're in. I'll see if I can stick to that and what kind of conclusions I need to draw from there.

Moving forward

I haven't written anything in this blog for about two months. Two months are a quite long time. I've made new friends, met old ones, I felt miserable for three weeks without really talking about it, I've dated a girl, started new activities and discontinued old ones.

I read this article yesterday about the morning routine of seven pretty successful women. Not only are all of them stunningly beautiful (I don't mention it because I am a sexist and I think women have to be beautiful. I rather like to appreciate the beauty in all people), but all of them have a morning routine, which they believe is part of their success.

I'm mainly writing this blog for two reasons beside the fact that I'm an attention whore:

  1. I like to give advice to young people who need it. I want to show that there is a silver line on the horizon and I want to help people figure out how to deal with their depression.
  2. I need to write stuff down in order to hold myself accountable. I want to showcase my journey in order to a) show that I know what I'm talking about and b) stick to my plans.

So apparently I've failed in both points, but at least I'm restarting. I also stopped meditating every day, but I've incorporated some techniques in my every day life. 

Long story short: I will change my behaviour to the following. I will start every day by writing down 5 things, which I want to do. At the end of the week, on Saturday I will give a report here on what I've accomplished. Hopefully this will a) make me feel awesome because I actually reflect, that I've achieved something. b) pressure me into actually doing something c) there is no step 3.

 

 

Perfectionism

Perfectionism kills productivity. At least for me that is the most hurting truth ever. 

Even though the articles and pages on this blog don't look all that thoroughly crafted, I truly see myself as a perfectionist. It's not part of my nature to expose stuff that is not finished to the world. It hurts. It makes me afraid that others will think that I am incapable, because they will not see my peace of work as perfect and beautiful as I imagine it to be in the future; I don't start working out, because I would have to do stretching afterwards, to have the best results and I don't want to stretch; I don't even start cleaning up my room, because I would need to take the trash out or do laundry.

So I end up not meditating, not doing any sports, procrastinating on my studies even though I'm in university and feel miserable about myself at the end of the day. This blog started as my way out of the vicious circle, because I could just start of working on an article and finish it somewhen in the future. Most of the time I finished my articles in one session and suddenly I couldn't even start to write an article. Why? Well, I wouldn't be able to finish it in one session.

I don't mean to write something crappy, but I need to work against that perfectionism. Why? Besides the fact that I need years to start working on something, because I know that it will be so hard to finish it, I also don't finish most of my projects. I am a person that a has a very high need of approval and I just loose the motivation if I don't get any approval. I stop to work at most of my projects after hitting 60-80% because it's not new anymore and I would need some kind of approval from someone, even me. 

I finally started working out again after almost a month of missing it. I skipped half of the stretching routines both times, but it is okay. At least I am doing something. I did meditate twice this week, also starting over after a month. I wrote another blogpost, I even managed to read on in that one book, that I had laid aside for two months. I am not very proud of my work, but I am proud, because I managed to show up. At least I keep moving somewhere and as soon as I build up some momentum again, I might even move in the right direction. Until then I will stick to 

Quickfix

I believe that often times the answer to a problem is quite easy. What most people fail at is the discipline to carry out what they know to be right. For the last days I have been struggling with this. I haven't been out as long as I wanted to. I didn't really stick to my daily morning routine of either showering or doing sports and I failed at going to bed early. 

I think that the most important skill that I picked up during my studies is discipline. But what is it worth that I can be disciplined when I am not being it? I know that happiness is a skill that I can manage to learn but like with every other skill I need to grind myself.

It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove. - Antoine de Saint Exupéry 

Today I woke up after about 5 hours of sleep and I just wanted to lay in bed forever and probably watch some episodes of Arrow (a pretty decent series on Netflix). Where would this lead me? Well I wouldn't need to feel myself, but that would only work for a couple of hours until I wake up and find myself in a even worse position because I'd realize that I haven't achieved anything today and hate myself even more. 

I am writing this article to remind myself that I don't have to identify with my feelings. I don't feel like doing sports now, but I will do it anyways because it gives me satisfaction, mental and physical strength, it gets my blood flow going and because it is part of my routine to a healthier, happier and more productive me. 

Seeing opportunity

I strongly believe that hustling is 90% of becoming great. The other 10% is chance. I think chances will come along for pretty much everyone but only those who currently try will finally see the opportunity when it is strolling down the line with you. 

I've had some pretty bad days this week. I got sick, I stopped working out and my lovely meditation app (get it at headspace.com) just introduced a new meditation technique, visualization, which is pretty frustrating because I feel unable to do it. Many words, little meaning: I feel miserable.

As an result of that I've been bingewatching Gotham and House of Cards on Netflix and those are definitely shows, I'd recommend, but it's very unfulfilling. I am on a vacation with my parents. I planned to get some video cutting done here, but I lost the USB stick with all the material. I guess everyone sees my train of fought: I'm finding lame excuses. 

Tomorrow is the date of my brothers confirmation. I have big problems engaging in conversations with my family and it's friends because I feel sluggish and bad about myself, but I will take the opportunity.

Which opportunity? I will train to network and have mindful conversations under the best situation possible: I feel bad, so it's hard for me to engage into meaningful conversations or conversations that don't interest me at all. So that's quite a hard level to work on, but it's okay if I fail. It's family. Nobody cares if I leave at a certain point in the talk. I don't lose money or a relationship about it. I can just be there and work on my skills trying to hide how much I hate myself and the situation I'm being in. Sounds great, right? I'm almost pumped. Almost.

Mother nature

I stumbled upon another short post on the positive effects of some bacteria living in soil which could be beneficial for the suppression of depression and other mental problems by positively controlling serotonin levels. I decided to make a small adjustment on my workout routine. Whenever I go out to work out, I will do it on some green space, in a park for example. I will go out for my workout everyday and not stay at home. Last but not least I make it mandatory to walk barefoot through the city every day for at least 2k steps.

Real love

After one relationship I might not have to much entitlement to write about love, but I will just do it anyways. Who would have guessed. Anyways, I have the strong feeling that now that the relationship is over and I am in fact caring more for myself, I am also more confident in caring for others. I feel that I can finally stop waiting to be loved. I have been meditating for 40 days in a row and I feel more mindful every day. 

During the last few days I got the strong feeling that I'd rather interpret love in the altruistic way. I want to use that new quality of my state of mind to improve the lives of the people around me. Finally I feel like I can give more than what I receive. Meditation is quite awesome.

I am quite sure that I am still to unstable to be part of a two human relationship but I can still learn to be the best version of myself at any given point in time.

Stealing good ideas

I think it's always important to steal good ideas from others. Like every artist needs to learn how to craft his art by copying the work of others, we also need to learn how to craft our lives, or live.

For today I will try to steal the following from the latest episode of the art of charm: 

His job title is the CEO - Chief Executive Optimist. I guess everyone should become the CEO of their lives. Have a great day!