Begin with the end in mind because all good things must come to an end

When we went to school as kids, we didn’t think we would one day graduate and leave. It just felt like such a long time, something so far in the distant future that it didn’t seem real.

But when we went to college or university, we knew things were different. We knew we would only be there for a few years and will soon graduate into full adulthood with a job and everything.

But after getting a job, we stopped thinking. Every day became the same mundane day trading hours for pennies. We either imagine ourselves keeping our jobs forever, or dream of quitting but never do.

When was the last time you think to yourself, I’m going to be doing this or working this job for the next 5 years and by the end of these 5 years, I want to have achieved these targets or goals. Afterward, I will move on to another job or role and tackle these different challenges.

So why are we surprised when 5 years later, nothing changed, nothing happened, and we’re still stuck at more or less where we were 5 years ago? I’m almost 5 years into my job and it’s sad to feel that way, especially when I could’ve done so much more.

I could still start now, and perhaps the lesson is to begin with the end in mind. All good (and bad) things must come to an end, have you thought about what kind of ending you would prefer? Or are you just blindly charging ahead, one day at a time, with no regard to how everything will play out in the end?

Cheat days and cheating yourself

“It’s okay, no one will find out.”

But it’s not okay, because you’re cheating yourself.

It’s fine to have cheat days if you’re intentional and strict about it. But the moment you start having random cheat days, you’re just cheating yourself.

Think about it for a bit, why do you need cheat days? What is it but an excuse for you to take a break and not do the work or not put in the effort to achieve that thing you’ve always wanted to achieve?

It’s okay to take breaks and cheat a little, but once you start cheating a bit more and can’t control yourself, you might as well not bother with whatever your goal is because it’s probably not gonna happen.

Do you really need cheat days? Or are you just running away from what you should be doing? Use them wisely.

If I didn’t quit back then, where would I be now?

I first started playing the ukulele sometime in early 2016. Back then, I only knew the basic chords and could only do some basic strumming. Sadly, I stopped learning after a while and it became somewhat of an on/off thing where I would pick up my ukulele, play it for a bit, and never touch it again for months.

Recently, I started learning how to play the ukulele again and I found myself asking this simple question. What if I never stopped learning in 2016, where would I be now in 2020? How good would I have become?

When the going gets tough and I feel like giving up, I ask myself. Suppose I give up and stop learning now, would I prefer to repeat this whole cycle later in 2024 or something? Imagine myself in 2024, looking back at 2020, wondering what would’ve happened if I didn’t quit the ukulele in 2020 and continued learning this whole time. How great an ukulele player would my 2024 self be right now?

Four years seem like a long time, but does it matter? I’m going to spend that four years anyway, might as well spend it doing something useful like learning a new skill. By the end of the four years, would I prefer to still be the same person who’s only a beginner? Or would I prefer to be someone who can play at a decent or semi-advanced level?

Is there anything you would like to start learning now that would come in handy or be really useful in a few years? Why haven’t you started learning it yet?

The myth of the 10,000 steps a day

Ever wonder where the 10,000 steps a day idea came from? I was reading a bit about it and found this article.

I-Min Lee, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard University T. H. Chan School of Public Health and the lead author of a new study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, began looking into the step rule because she was curious about where it came from. “It turns out the original basis for this 10,000-step guideline was really a marketing strategy,” she explains. “In 1965, a Japanese company was selling pedometers, and they gave it a name that, in Japanese, means ‘the 10,000-step meter.’ ”

Based on conversations she’s had with Japanese researchers, Lee believes that name was chosen for the product because the character for “10,000” looks sort of like a man walking. As far as she knows, the actual health merits of that number have never been validated by research.

[…]

In her research, Lee put it to the test by observing the step totals and mortality rates of more than 16,000 elderly American women. The study’s results paint a more nuanced picture of the value of physical activity.

“The basic finding was that at 4,400 steps per day, these women had significantly lower mortality rates compared to the least active women,” Lee explains. If they did more, their mortality rates continued to drop, until they reached about 7,500 steps, at which point the rates leveled out. Ultimately, increasing daily physical activity by as little as 2,000 steps—less than a mile of walking—was associated with positive health outcomes for the elderly women.

That nuance can mean a lot to people who want to be less sedentary but aren’t sure how to start or whether they can do enough to make a difference, says Lindsay Wilson, a clinical professor of geriatric medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “I don’t think setting the bar at 10,000 steps is a very successful way to approach exercise,” she says. “Some people are not walkers. They don’t have safe neighborhoods, or they feel unsteady on sidewalks. You need to be more creative. Is this a person who needs to go to a gym class or the pool, or sit on a stationary bike?”

[…]

If many of the persistent myths of American health, like eating breakfast and getting a certain number of steps, are based on marketing rather than science, why do they stick so well? “A big challenge is that the public and the media want cut-and-dried, black-and-white messages and findings, and science just doesn’t operate that way,” says Virginia Chang, a physician and sociologist at the NYU College of Global Public Health. “The uncertainty in the research doesn’t get translated well into the messaging. People just want to know what they should do.”

[…]

But for people hoping to improve their overall health, there’s often significant evidence that incremental improvements in things such as diet, hydration, and exercise can have real benefits, even if numerical goals are missed.

Lee says that thanks to advances in technology that make wearable fitness trackers more affordable and reporting on activity more reliable, her research is just starting to explore a fuller understanding of how physical activity and overall health are tied. Because her study was observational, it’s impossible to assert causality: The women could have been healthier because they stepped more, or they could have stepped more because they were already healthier. Either way, Lee says, it’s clear that regular, moderate physical activity is a key element of a healthy life, no matter what that looks like on an individual level.

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/05/10000-steps-rule/590785/

Science is inherently uncertain, that’s why they have error bars and confidence intervals, and there are usually no clear-cut answers to how much you should exercise. But either way, we know that physical activity is good for you, we just don’t have a specific number for it. Besides, that number is probably very personal and varies among individuals.

Depending on who you are and what you do, it could either be very easy to get 10,000 steps a day, or almost impossible. It’s probably really easy if you work as a waiter, nurse, or delivery person, but good luck if you’re a bus/taxi driver, programmer, or front-desk receptionist. For them, it might be a better idea to do short 7 minute workouts rather than collecting 10,000 steps a day.

On budgeting and allocating expenses to optimize your personal finance

A simple idea to consider, don’t just have one bank account with a large sum of money. Try creating different accounts for different purposes, or split your money into different envelopes each with a different name or purpose.

Start by splitting a fixed percentage for your rent, food expenses, clothing expenses, transport expenses, self-improvement/learning expenses, entertainment expenses, gifts and surprises, charity, self-care, insurance, savings, investments, travel and vacation, apps, subscription services, emergency fund, and so on, and put them into separate accounts or envelopes.

The exact categories depend on your actual lifestyle. Some people might need a separate category for clothes, shoes, and handbags, while others just lump all those together under miscellaneous expenses because they’re so rare or insignificant.

Whenever you need to spend any money, only take from those envelopes or accounts. This will make you painfully aware of how much money you’re spending, or not spending, on each category. Once the envelope is empty, that’s it. You can’t spend any more on that category until next month when fresh funds come in. Once you understand where your money goes, only then can you start curbing your excessive spending or increasing your spending on the things you care about.

For example, you might be shocked to find just how much you actually spend on clothing when you don’t actually care that much about clothes. Or you might be surprised by how little you spend on self-improvement despite being obsessed with personal growth. Or you might scowl at yourself for spending so little on gifts and surprises when you consider how much you value your friends and family.

It’s only after having self-awareness can you actually start optimizing your finances. Everyone values something different so no one can advise you on what to spend, only you can decide how your finances should be optimized.

Every problem feels like a big problem until an even bigger problem arrives

Suppose you woke up one morning and discovered someone broke into your house and stole a few things. It might seem like a big deal, especially if you’ve lost a lot of valuables, but in reality, it’s not.

Suppose you were driving somewhere later that day got into a car accident that left you with a wrecked car and a broken leg. How do you feel about this morning’s burglary now?

And suppose when the doctor was treating your broken leg, they somehow discovered you have terminal cancer with only a few months left to live, a bit far-fetched but suppose that actually happened. How do you feel about your broken leg now?

Hopefully, no one is so unlucky as to experience such a series of unfortunate events, but it can happen. And that leads to the point I’m making, all your problems can feel like big problems until an even bigger problem arrives.

This year has been filled with problems after problems, each of it so seemingly major that we can’t imagine something worse, until something worse actually happened, and the cycle repeats.

Perhaps the lesson here is to be grateful that our problems aren’t worse that they actually are and that some people have dealt with such problems before and survived while others have it much worse.

Lean towards the new, what do you want to explore?

Here’s something I read earlier that resonated, emphasis mine.

Many people look to their past hobbies and strengths for income ideas. That tends to be a relatively weak approach that can easily lead to boredom. What if instead you develop income ideas based around what you’d like to explore and experience? Why rehash the past that you’ve already explored when you could lean into something new and adventurous?

https://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2020/06/fun-is-a-personal-standard/

Too often, we trap ourselves in our comfort zone and keep on doing the things we’re good at, the things we’re comfortable with, the things we’ve done a million times. Perhaps it’s great to play our strength, especially if you’re happy, content, and not yet bored with it. Otherwise, wouldn’t you rather explore something new?

That’s not to say if you’re a musician, you should stop playing music and explore rock climbing. Well, you could, but that’s not the point. Instead, you should stop playing the pieces that no longer excite you and explore something else. And to go off on a slight tangent, this reminds me of a certain TED talk by the world’s greatest Mouseketeer player.

https://www.ted.com/talks/mark_applebaum_the_mad_scientist_of_music

Bottom line: Better to focus on what you want to explore and use that as a guide for moving forward, rather than using on your past strengths and achievements to extrapolating where you should go next.

DIY standing desk, part 1

Today, I made a standing desk for myself and it is weird. Not the standing while using my laptop part but the actual setup part.

I’m not going to post a picture of it but just imagine this. A plastic chair on top of my desk. On top of the chair is a stack of half a dozen books with my laptop on top, which makes my laptop screen somewhat close to, but not quite, at eye level.

Back again to my desk, I’ve placed a Bluetooth keyboard on top of a cardboard box on top of my desk, which makes the keyboard somewhat at elbow height. Since neither my desk height nor cardboard box height is adjustable, I’ll have to simply make do with what I have.

See the diagram below, that’s more or less what I’ve built but instead of a proper standing desk, I’ve used a regular desk, a cardboard box, a plastic chair, and a bunch of books to approximate the setup.

https://alphacolin.com/ikea-standing-desk-for-22-dollars/

The only downside is, I don’t have a mouse and it’s really awkward to use the touchpad when it’s so high up with my laptop on the chair. Other than that, I’m starting to rely more on keyboard shortcuts whenever I can. So far, it’s great! But that might just be the initial excitement.

Why did I opt to get a standing desk? For the ergonomics I guess, I’ve tried it more than half a decade ago, and I think there was a standing desk craze sometime back then, but I stopped using it because the interest died down and I didn’t quite have a proper setup.

I still don’t have any proper setup to this day, hence the plastic chair, books, cardboard box solution, but I wanted to give it another go, especially since I’m experiencing some neck pain recently, probably from poor laptop ergonomics. I could make a proper sitting desk setup, and it would probably be a lot easier, but I just feel like revisiting the standing desk and see how it goes.

Alternatively, it would probably be easier to do a laptop-in-bed setup, and it would be quite comfortable as well, but I’m trying not to use my laptop in bed so often. So far, I’ve been using this standing desk setup for about an hour, and my feet are hurting, might take a while for me to get used to it.

I’ll write a part 2 continuation after using this setup for a few weeks.

The color of your sunglasses

I bought a new pair of sunglasses today as my old one ‘died’ on me.

If you’re wondering how it ‘died’, the lens on the right side started developing lots of tiny cracks or fractures, kinda like a mosaic of a bunch of densely packed spider webs. I don’t know the proper terminology for it, here’s how it looks like.

If you know what its called, please tell me as I’m struggling to find any info on it online.

Anyway, so I bought a new pair of sunglasses and I finally noticed something. My previous lens was brown. Yeah, you’d think I know that but all this time, it didn’t occur to me that the lens on the sunglasses I was wearing for several years was brown. I mean, come on!

When I was shopping for a new pair of sunglasses, I did notice that there were several different lens colors, like grey and brown, but I was only focusing at the grey lens, believing that was the color I was wearing this whole time, so I bought a pair of grey lens sunglasses.

It was only after having bought it and trying to alternate between my two sunglasses did I realized that my previous lens was brown! How mindblowing is that? And that there’s a significant difference between how they look and what I see while wearing them. After reading a bit on the different lens colors, or tints, here’s a simple summary below.

https://www.verywellhealth.com/sunglasses-does-color-matter-3421920

To be honest, I can’t tell if mine is brown or amber or copper, but I do know that it’s not grey (or gray), and after educating myself a bit on the different tints, I suddenly feel like buying an extra pair of sunglasses, or two. For another time anyway, for now, I’m content with my new sunglasses and newfound knowledge of sunglasses tints.

I’m not sure how well-versed you are in sunglasses but I do hope you found this useful or insightful. If you’re anything like me, you might find all this to be rather mindblowing. I mean, how can I not know all this or come across them before?