Tag Archive | Compounding

On Tracking and Celebration

Fragment from imaginary dialogues

Track only what’s worth tracking.

“What is worth tracking?”

“It’s more important to track what didn’t go well than what did. That’s where the gems (principles) are found.”

“Tracking what went well allows you to celebrate it at the end of the day. (retrospective celebration)”

It’s better practice to celebrate what went well immediately after. 

Better to spend the day in celebration by filling it with little celebrations throughout than having just one at the end of the day. Their effect compounds.

To make the initial principle more specific:

Track what doesn’t go well.
Imediately celebrate every little thing that does.

The light side of technology

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Did you know that adult Americans touch their smartphones on average more than 2,600 times a day?”

“I’m guessing there’s a lot of statistical wizardry involved in getting to that number, but let’s go with it. So people touch their smartphones a lot. What do you think about that?”

“That seems a bit excessive, doesn’t it?”

“Not necessarily.

Depends what you touch the smartphone for.

For instance, imagine if with every touch of the phone you read a random little piece of wisdom. Those little pieces of wisdom would really add up.

“One approach is to reduce the number of touches. I’m guessing that’s the one you’re advocating.”

“Yes, it is. What’s your approach?”

My approach is to make every touch of the phone meaningful, and to use the phone only as a productivity tool.

On dealing with time-sinks

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“There are some activities that tend to swallow big chunks of your precious time if you let them. I call them time-sinks.”

“Haven’t you eliminated non-essentials?”

“I have. But it’s a matter of proportion. Or, to use a different model, opportunity cost. The more time you give an activity, the less time you have for others.

Time-sinks come in two flavors, big and small.
Either one big time-block – activities that are hard to disengage from.
Or multiple small time-blocks – activities that stealthily compound.”

“What strategies do you use for dealing with them?”

“One strategy is setting limits.

Always have an exit strategy.

It can be a limit per session. ‘I’m going to read for half an hour, then take a break.
It can be a limit per day. ‘I’m going to check social media for no more than 10 minutes per day.‘”

“So you track your time?”

“Yes. Not for all activities. Only for certain time-sinks.

The idea is to identify failure-points and give them special attention.

Another strategy is setting focus.

Let’s say you want to read for x minutes. 
If you focus on finishing the chapter (outcome), and the chapter takes longer than x minutes, you will likely exceed the allocated time.
If you focus on reading for x minutes (process), you’re much more likely to succeed.

So the key is to focus on the process not the outcome.

Another strategy is setting intention.

This is a kind of priming.

If you don’t set the intention, you’ll default to your habitual patterns. Depending on the habits you’ve formed, it can work for or against you.

Make it a habit to set the intention right before engaging in an activity.

You’re essentially setting up a life-algorithm.”

“Can you give an example?”

“For instance:

Set a timer to 25 minutes.
Focus on the process not the outcome. (Priming; Practice: Selective-Focus)
Ignore ALL distractions. (Priming; Practice: Deep-Focus)
Stop / Interrupt yourself after 25 minutes. (Priming; Practice: Discipline)”

Life-Artist 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“You’ve undoubtedly heard the words ‘The Art of Living’ many times.”

“I have.”

“For a long time I read the words without grasping the meaning [<link; medium length].

To really grasp the meaning is to LIVE it.

I call this ‘lived-understanding‘.

To really grasp the meaning is to BECOME the Artist you were always meant to be.

When you do, your WHOLE LIFE becomes your canvas, a fundamental means of self-expression.

It’s hard to convey how profound that is.

There isn’t ANYTHING that isn’t your Art.

From the Inner Realm to the Outer, from the personal to the interpersonal. Body, Mind, Spirit, EVERYTHING is your Art.

And your Art is SACRED.

You shape it moment by precious moment, with every breath, with every micro-choice you make.

To use a metaphor, think of a picture on your computer. When you zoom all the way in, what do you see?”


“That’s what your life looks like at the micro-level.

As the Artist, you must have the Vision to SEE the Macro in the Micro [<link; medium], to see the zoomed-out picture in the pixel of the moment.”

On becoming a Writer

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How did you become a writer?”

“In terms of identity, this is a very recent development.”

“How recent?”

“Since I came to London, three years ago.

Interestingly I’d never imagined I would become a writer. There was no planning, no structured build-up, nothing.

I have been writing for many years, mostly on gaming forums, mostly about games. Without realizing it, I was honing my writing skills.

That was my long apprenticeship.”

“How did it become identity?”

“The process was part organic, part creative.

Organic in the sense that, by engaging in the activity of writing, besides developing the skills, I was gradually breaking through fear barriers. By exposing my ideas to the world, I was slowly building confidence. And confidence not just in my writing, but in my own thinking. This is yet another instance of compounding in action.

Creative in the sense that, at some point, the process became intentional.

One day, about two years ago, I wrote in my notes:

I am a Writer.

It was an idea I’d never entertained until then. A faint glimmer of possibility.

It seemed far fetched, but I added it to my identity list anyway. Whenever I read the list (which was daily), I would read it as well.

That’s when writing became identity. This was the first stage.

Time passed. I kept writing. And then, one day, I felt it: 

I am a Writer.

The identity-seed had taken root. I’d discovered my own creative voice.

That’s when writing became identity. This was the second stage.

More time passed. I kept writing. And then, quite recently, I made a commitment:

I am a Writer.

I vowed to myself to write every single day, and created a structure for it in the (design) blueprint of my ‘masterpiece day’, a daily ritual.

Writing has become a craft. This is the third stage.”

Healing the Past

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

One of the many facets of the Art of (Playful) Living, and maybe the most important, is the relationship you have with yourself. I like to think of it as Connection. More specifically, connection with four aspects of yourself. In my case:

Dani-who-I-was (past)
Dani-who-I-am (present)
Dani-who-I-will-be (future)

I think of them in Romanian, my native language, because they are more powerful:

Dani-care-am-fost (past)
Dani-care-sunt (present)
Dani-care-voi-fi (future)

“Isn’t Dani-child the same as Dani-who-I-was?”

“No. Dani-child is always with me, the embodiment of Playfulness, Curiosity, and Creativity, the expression of what the ancient Greeks called ‘Entheos’, and what the ancient Romans called ‘Genius’, the Divine Within.

The connection with Dani-who-I-will-be can profoundly influence your actions in the present.

If you deeply FEEL the connection, and you connect this with your ultimate Purpose in this fleeting life of ours, you will never again engage in activities that may bring you harm (eg smoking).

But that’s not what I want to focus on now. What I want to focus on is the connection with Dani-who-I-was.

For a very long period of my life, the past felt like a burden. Not knowing how to deal with painful memories, I constantly and futilely tried to chase them away from my mind… but they’d always return. Like maybe most people, my coping mechanism was addiction (to video games, drinking, entertainment, etc).

Not anymore, and NEVER AGAIN.

I managed to completely and radically turn the relationship with my past upside down, where what used to bring pain, now is a source of only deep Joy. This is one of the most important accomplishments on my Journey so far.”

“How did you manage that?”

I learned to love myself unconditionally.

I’d heard of the importance of self-love many times before, but I didn’t know how to do it. Until one day I stumbled upon a video on YouTube by a guy called Aziz Gazipura. I liked it, I watched a few more of his videos, and decided to read one of his books, The Art of Extraordinary Confidence, which I did. There was one idea from that book that changed my life.”

“What was it?”

The PRACTICE of saying to myself: ‘I love you, Dani.’

When I first tried it, while looking at myself in the mirror, I got tears in my eyes. That’s when I realized how powerful this is.

It’s been a few years since then, and I’ve been doing that EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I start and end every day by saying it to myself, I do it every single time I look at myself in the mirror, every time I fail, every time I succeed, every time I think about the future, and every time I think about the past.

That’s how I healed the relationship with Dani-who-I-was and my past.

Every time I remembered an experience from the past, I would say to myself ‘I love you Dani‘. Every painful memory became a healing moment. And you know you’ve healed something when it no longer returns.

Instead of trying to avoid them, as I’d done in the past, I started to look for painful memories. And there were thousands of them.”

“You mean ‘hundreds‘?”

“You’re right, I’m exaggerating. But they did feel endless once.

This is yet another instance of compounding.

All these little instances of self-love add up until, seemingly out of the blue, thinking about the past brings only deep lasting Peace.

Only, it wasn’t out of the blue. It was the manifestation of the cumulative process that preceded it.”

Opportunity Cost: Time

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Opportunity Cost is a very useful model from Economics. There’s a hidden cost to everything we do. The cost can be monetary (money spent on one thing is no longer available for something else), but it equally applies to any other resource, most notably, time.

Time is the most valuable resource because it is nonrenewable.

Time wasted is time no longer available for doing the things that are truly meaningful, that make you feel vibrantly alive. Opportunity Cost.”

“Makes me think of a quote by Robert Greene:

There’s only two types of time: dead time and alive time.

“I love Robert Greene’s vivid distinction. 
The expression ‘killing time’ is so accurate.

Dead time never returns.”

“But neither does alive time.”

“The difference is, alive time enriches you.

Both dead and alive time compound.

Little by little by little they add up. The effect is invisible at a smaller time frame, in the same way a tiny little drop of water feels insignificant. But at a larger time frame, those tiny little drops can carve mountains.

The difference is, one adds to your life, the other takes away.”

Beautiful Habits: Appreciating Habits

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Appreciate how far you’ve come.”

“What’s the PRACTICE?”

“What do you mean? Isn’t it obvious?”

“I mean what actionable steps are you taking to practicing Appreciation in this specific instance?

Values are a PRACTICE.

I’d go even further.

Values are a DELIBERATE Practice.

Thinking of it in terms of rep(etition)s, what counts as a rep?”

“I’d say actually expressing Appreciation in the moment.”

“Precisely. The more often, the better. Every little rep counts. Every little rep is an investment, which will lead to huge returns for your future-self.

In actionable terms, one way you can appreciate how far you’ve come is by appreciating habits.

Habits are the fundamental building-blocks of your life.

As with most things, we take them for granted, not realizing that, in their compounded effect, they make us who we are, and lead us towards who we want to be.

Make it a habit to NOTICE the good habits you’ve formed, big and small, and, equally important, the bad ones you’ve discarded, and express heartfelt gratitude every time you do.”

Essentialist 2

The quality of the output is dependent on the quality of the input.

Discipline is Freedom. (Jocko Willink)

SEE the Macro in the Micro.

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“My mind cannot stand still.
I pick a flower of my thought and gently lay it down on paper,
and three more grow to take its place.
Creating has become for me like breathing.”

“You weren’t always like this. What’s your secret?”


I’ve structured my life around my Art, and eliminated EVERYTHING extraneous. I’ve turned my life into my Art.

There are many little things that compounded to this outcome, but I’d say, above all, was Discipline.

Discipline gives you wings, and you grow your wings moment by precious moment, one micro-decision at a time.”

Why do you desire what you desire?

Freedom is attained not by satisfying desires but by removing them. (Seneca)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

Why do you desire x?

“I don’t know. I just do. It’s part of who I am, I guess.”

Can you recall a time when this desire was not part of who you are?

“Yes, I can.”

“So the desire was acquired at some point along the way. It very likely started with a singular experience.

Who you are, your identity is a construct. And, as you very well know, by looking back at who you were at different stages of your life, identity is ever changing.

Identity is yet another instance of compounding.

One day you do something different. A new experience, an experiment. At that point, it feels insignificant. You get some benefit out of it, however small, so you repeat the experience. And then you do it again, and again, and again, and again… At every point, it feels just as insignificant, but, in time, their cumulative effect brings about a significant change:

I am the one who does y.

That initial action, apparently insignificant, was the SEED for a thousand subsequent actions.

If you think of their combined effect in terms of energy expenditure, time and money spent, physical and mental impact on your future-self, the result is dramatic, for better or for worse.

Given the significance of that first action, was it a wise choice?

“If am to be honest with myself, no, it wasn’t. I did it unthinkingly.”

“I think most of us have a tendency to go through life unthinkingly.

One important facet of Wisdom is taking full ownership of the Process. ‘Living Intentionally’, as Cal Newport put it. Or, as someone else put it, ‘Living by Design, not by default’.

This means, among other things, scrutinizing ALL the things we take for granted, and ELIMINATING those that do not serve us, or serve us too little.

I view it in aesthetic terms. I call it Life Artistry.”

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)