Tag Archive | Simplicity

On Pleasure

If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”. […]

When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!”

(Derek Sivers)

Focus on that which lights your soul on fire. (Brian Johnson)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I don’t like it.”

“Pleasures can be cultivated. You can grow to like it.”

“I don’t want to grow to like it.

An important aspect of my Art is cultivating the right pleasures.

“Which are those?”

“Those aligned with my Vision for my Masterpiece Life. I choose to focus exclusively on those.”

“Aren’t you missing on the simple pleasures of life?”

“On the contrary. Simplicity is one of my central values.

Another important aspect of my Art is cultivating simple pleasures.

For instance I only drink water. If you do it mindfully and gratefully, the simple act of drinking water is a joy.

The idea is, I’m very selective about my pleasures.

Some pleasures add to your life.
Some pleasures neither add nor detract.
Some pleasures detract from your life.

From my perspective,
if one wants to live a great life, it’s important to eliminate the third;
If however one wants to live an extraordinary life, it’s important to eliminate the second kind as well.

The second kind, while seemingly unimpactful, come with a subtle opportunity cost: they take away time and energy from the full expression of the first.”

Beautiful Systems: Implementation 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“We’ve talked before [<link; medium read] about Habits being one essential component of the Implementation system. What other components does the system have?”

“It’s a work in progress. Here’s a general overview of what it looks like at this stage. I like to think of it as the design-blueprint.

Key related system: Presence

Key value: Simplicity

I have these written at the top of the document, as two very important reference points. Working on Implementation goes hand in hand with working on Presence, and Simplicity is an essential guideline for my design philosophy.

As a practical approach, I’m using the Design/Development model.”

“What is that?”

“It means that, together, Design and Development form an iterative cycle.”

“So like implementation cycles?”

“Yes. I start with design, then follow it with development. I identify failure-points, and based on this feedback, I start a new cycle.

Design and Development form the two areas of the document.



These are my macro-tools of trade. 



(Implementation Intentions, Contextual Priming, Deliberate Practice)

(Feedback Loop, Problem/Diagnosis/Design, Tracking)


These are the bread and butter of Implementation, which we’ll be talking about in the future.

I conceptualize all components of the system as models.”

“A models-deck [<link; medium read]?”

“Yes. I’m reading it before every implementation session to selectively activate key resources. This is what I mean by contextual-priming.”

On Gratitude and Implementation

Are you sitting right now as you read? If so, then a chair, sofa, or bed is supporting you. You probably have not paid much attention to this fact until I mentioned it. Nor have you been thinking that someone designed the chair (sofa, bed, etc.); someone manufactured it; someone brought it to where you are sitting; someone paid for it – perhaps it was you. It is likely that many people (mostly unknown to you) had a hand in the chair’s creation and journey to where it is now. It is fair to say that you are receiving a service from the chair and from all of those people whose efforts were part of the story. Whether you notice it or not, whether you thank it or not, the chair offers you support, comfort. The chair is a silent gift. (Patricia Madson, Improv Wisdom)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“You can practice Gratitude in many ways.”

Do you practice Gratitude in all those ways?”

“When I remember it.”

“So quite infrequently?”

“Frankly, yes.

How can I stop forgetting?”

“There’s two aspects to it:
– remembering to practice
– remembering what to practice

Each requires different strategies.

An important thing to remember, on a meta / higher-order level, is this:


Have a default practice, ONE focus you keep coming back to, the most powerful practice you know.

What might that be? Express it as a directive.”

“Take NOTHING for granted.”

The directive you chose, while good as a reminder, is non-specific, it has no built-in actionable components.

To enrich it, connect it with ONE actionable question and ONE actionable model.

“Question: What am I taking for granted?

Model: Silent Gifts”


You’ve thus created a little network. The directive will serve as the access-point.

As concerns the rest of the practices, you can use randomness as a tool [<link; medium read].

Make a selection of the practices, 80/20 style, either on paper or digitally. Whenever you want to practice, extract one at random. That will be the theme of the session.

I call this random thematic practice.”

Games of Perception: Beauty 2

For me, personal growth is a beautiful creative process. I’ll give an example to illustrate: my strategy for setting my mental channel to beautiful consistently, and my thought process behind it.

By “setting my mental channel to beautiful” I mean setting my mind to notice the beautiful things around me. For some context, check out this [link; short length] post.

It all starts with a question:

How can I set my mental channel to beautiful consistently?

What this does is set my mind to creative problem-solving mode. My mind starts playing with possibilities. At this point, depending on the nature of the problem, I can leave the process open-ended, or I can narrow down the possibilities by asking more questions. There’s benefits to both. The next important question here is:

What obstacles prevent me from achieving my end?

In this case, the main obstacle is remembering to set my mental channel to beautiful. The more often I remember it, the more often I can do it. This already suggests a strategy: setting reminders (or “anchors”, to use a NLP term), internal or external. Or, even better, both internal and external.

What anchors might I use?

This is the truly creative part, because you can use pretty much anything as anchors. The possibilities are endless.

For me, in looking for solutions to a problem, beauty acts as a guide. This means the solution has to be aesthetic, not just functional.

My solution in this case is to use beauty itself as an anchor. That is, every instance of beauty sets my mental channel to beautiful. Simple and elegant. Both highly functional, and aesthetic.

However I’m not done yet. Creating anchors for every instance of beauty is obviously inefficient. Better to create just one anchor, for the idea of Beauty. So every instance of beauty mentally connects me to the idea of Beauty, which sets my mental channel to beautiful.

I imagine the more meaningful the idea of Beauty is to you, the more powerful the effect. For me it’s one of my central values.

I’ve simplified the process a great deal just to make a point (it took a while, and quite a few iterations and bursts of inspiration before I came up with it). For instance, simplicity is another very important filter for me when looking for solutions.

The process described above, besides being a little window into my mental world, is also a metaphor, for how I see and engage with personal growth.

On Beauty and Simplicity

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I haven’t watched a film for a very long time. I’ve watched three or four films in the last two years.”

“You’re not into films?”

“I used to be. I used to watch a lot of them. And I mean, a lot. And I used to spend just just as much time (if not more) watching trailers and keeping constantly updated with all upcoming films and rumors.

Not anymore.”

“How come?”

“I didn’t plan to. It just happened. I’ve simply displaced them with other activities that are more meaningful to me.”

“What kind of activities?”

“Reading, learning, creating, playing with ideas, writing, Parkour training, going in nature, among others. Oh, and… bus traveling.”

“Bus traveling?”

“I simply love traveling by bus in London. I mean with the double-decker buses, especially if I can sit in front. You get such a wonderful moving panoramic-view. As my map of the beautiful expanded, the view became more and more beautiful.”

“What do you mean by ‘map of the beautiful’?

“If you set your perceptual filter to ‘beautiful’ (what’s technically called ‘reticular activation’, or what I like to call ‘setting the mental channel’), what do you see? What categories and instances of the beautiful pop up into view?

As I’ve grown and (re)learned to appreciate movement and play and the simple things around me, my map of the beautiful has expanded considerably. I notice more beautiful things, and experience them more intensely. To the point that a trip by bus has become a real joy.”

“Do you miss films sometimes?”

“Not at all. I realize (for me) most of it was just another escape from reality, next to video games, and drinking. A distraction.

I no longer want to distract myself from reality. I want to experience it fully, with EVERYTHING it has to offer, both the highs and the lows.

I’ve gotten to a point where I find the feel of the wind on my skin and the flight of a bird breathtakingly beautiful. Any stimulation a film can provide pales in comparison.”

“What about mental stimulation?”

“I find enough of it in my dear books.”


Me and my little brother

I’ve fully embraced my identity of Designer.

It took me a while, because I didn’t really know what it meant. I used to equate design mostly with aesthetics. A profound shift occurred with a realization:

Design actually means solving problems.

Aesthetics is simply a component of it.

Within the context of Self-Actualization, I now like to think of myself as the Designer of my Life. This is a profoundly creative and essentially practical endeavor.

Here’s an example.

I like to distinguish between outer and inner priming. Outer priming relies on external cues (eg reading something, an image, a song, etc); inner priming relies on thoughts alone.

As concerns outer priming, one excellent design space is the desktop of your computer, because you interact with it so often. More specifically, the background image. The system is simplicity embodied (for me, a hallmark of great design): the background image changes randomly, from a careful selection of images.

– Select the most powerful images you have, 80/20 style (and start collecting such images). Quality over quantity.
– Put all of them in a folder.
– Set the background image of your computer to take images from that folder, and make the background change at the interval of your choosing (mine is set to 10 minutes).

The most powerful images can instantly change your state, and help you regain balance.

The image of me and my little brother is one of the most powerful I have. It’s so powerful that it brings tears to my eyes, and it instantly connects me with my Inner Child. That’s the kind of images you want.

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)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I’ve finally managed to eliminate non-essentials from my life. What’s next?”


Eliminate excesses, of any kind. Be the Artist, always with an eye out for balance and proportion.

Games of Gratitude: Find the Gift

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I like to think of my life as a game. I call it The Beautiful Game [<link; medium length].
This game is made up of a myriad Life-(micro/mini/macro)games.

Here’s one. I call it Find the Gift.

EVERYTHING you experience has a hidden Gift inside of it. The puzzle is to discover it, and express Gratitude for it.

“A simple little game.”

“There’s power and beauty in simple things. In an important sense, the Art of Living is the Art of Perception.”