Rules and highlights

It has been a rather unfulfilling 2 weeks. Each day feels the same. I wake up, go through my morning routine, start work and laze about after work. When I’m not working, I’m either re-watching my favourite show, Community, watching YouTube videos or playing games. Yes it does sound rather nice, but I can’t deny this sense of boredom and unfulfillment that has been bugging me for awhile.

In my hours spent on YouTube, I chanced upon Ali Abdaal’s book review of Make Time. In the video he mentioned the 4-step framework in which the book introduces, and the first step really caught my attention — setting a daily highlight. Here is a quote from Ali’s notes, which may or may not have been an actual quote in the book.

If you set a single intention at the start of each day, we predict you’ll be more satisfied, joyful and effective.

Make Time, Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky (Probably)

It sounds simple enough — pick an activity or task that you would like to get done today and write it down. And do it of course. It’s not difficult, and it provides a slightly more intentional way of spending our time each day. I like it, and I’ll experiment for a month or so and see if it makes a difference.

On top of setting a daily highlight, I came up with another simple rule for myself — do nothing else while eating dinner. I’m usually on my phone during dinner, watching Netflix or YouTube. So for a change, I decided that it would be good to rest my eyes a little, especially since I spend most of my day staring at a screen. And perhaps being off my phone as I dine in the living room would encourage more organic conversations with my family.

So, these are the two simple habit/rules that I will be trying out for awhile. As James Clear very strongly advocates for in Atomic Habits, I too believe that these tiny 1% improvements that we make to our lives can have a huge impact when compounded over time.

“I’m too busy”

I started reading a modern translation of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, titled The Emperor’s Handbook. It consists of twelve books (or chapters), and the first book was solely dedicated to thanksgiving and gratitude. He wrote about the people he was grateful for and how each one impacted him through the way they lived their lives or the words of wisdom they provided.

Alexander the Platonist cautioned me against saying or writing in a letter, either too often or without absolutely needing to, “I’m too busy,” as well as against using the demands of work as a constant excuse for ducking my social obligations and familial duties.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Within its many pages of wisdom, this one line stood out to me in particular. Because it is indeed something I have too often been guilty of. As we grow older and take on more responsibilities, it becomes easier and easier to play the “I’m too busy” card. Because there’s always some truth to it. We think “It’s not a lie, it’s not an excuse, I actually am really busy.” And best of all, no one can fault you for it either.

It’s powerful, but therein lies the danger of an excuse this convenient. Left unchecked, it becomes easy to put off even the important things. It leads down a path of self-centredness and procrastination. So, note to self, as Alexander the Platonist cautions, as difficult as it might be, do not use it unless absolutely needed.

It’s difficult. Thank God.

If I am a friend of Jesus, I must deliberately and carefully lay down my life for Him. It is a difficult thing to do, and thank God that it is. Salvation is easy for us, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in my life is difficult. God saves a person, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and then says, in effect, “Now you work it out in your life, and be faithful to Me, even though the nature of everything around you is to cause you to be unfaithful.”

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Two things struck me as I read this in the morning. Kinda radical, yet logical.

  1. God knows how extremely difficult it is to follow Him.
  2. I should thank God that it is so extremely difficult.
    • For if following God and holding ourselves to His standard were easy, what does it say about God?

Stoic beginnings

I first encountered the philosophy of stoicism a few years back when reading Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is The Way. I didn’t think much of it, until I discovered Captain Sinbad’s YouTube channel in late 2019. He shared openly about stoicism and it piqued my interest greatly.

A couple YouTube videos and Reddit posts later, I was sold. Well, I wasn’t quite ready to declare myself a stoic yet but, I was surprised at how many stoic principles and teachings were in line with Christian teachings. And I am convinced some of its teachings are in line with my personal goals as well on leading a good life.

With that, I decided that the next step to better understand stoicism is to read its literature. I bought a book, The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday, which I should have guessed by the title, was a daily stoic devotional. And Amber, to my very pleasant surprise, bought me two more — The Emperor’s Handbook, a modern translation of Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, and Letters from a Stoic, by Seneca.

And so begins my deep dive into the rabbit hole that is Stoicism. I’m excited to see where this takes me.

On market fluctuations

The true investor scarcely ever is forced to sell his shares, and at all other times he is free to disregard the current price quotation. He need pay attention to it and act upon it only to the extent that it suits his book, and no more. Thus the investor who permits himself to be stampeded or unduly worried by unjustified market declines in his holdings is perversely transforming his basic advantage into a basic disadvantage. That man would be better off if his stocks had no market quotation at all, for he would then be spared the mental anguish caused him by other persons’ mistakes of judgement.

Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor

In his book, Graham often points out the difference between investing and speculating. This paragraph is a wonderful reminder of what it means to be an investor. Market fluctuations are to be viewed as opportunities for making wise decisions, not avenues of stress, worry and speculation.

Reading list

I read a little.

Here is my reading list, and with it, some of my book notes. I’ve really only gotten into the habit of writing book notes recently, so I hope that sharing this publicly would provide additional motivation to continue noting down what I’ve gleaned from the pages.