On the importance of being authentic

I think that authenticity has become one of the scarcest resources. There’s so little of it out there nowadays. So many of us put up a front of how we would like to be seen not how we actually are.

The truth is, people are also really good at seeing through these fronts. We have developed extremely good bullshit detectors. As a result, we’ve become very skeptical of everything.

E.g., when someone would give us a gift without asking anything in return and not on Christmas, most of us would think there’s some kind of a catch – we would be on our guard. “what is she up to?” we would ask ourselves.

Maybe it shouldn’t be like this, but it is – and for a good reason. There’s just so much faking out there. Many people think they can’t possibly be authentic and reveal their true selves – nobody would ever like their true self. At least that’s what we might think.

It’s the opposite. Nobody likes fake fronts. And since people detect fake fronts quite fast, you’re disliked quite fast – or at least you become unrelatable.

Sure, being authentic is a risky business. We put ourselves out there. We reveal ourselves, which means we’re vulnerable to attacks or rejection.

But which is better: being liked by someone not because of you but because of your fake front, or being liked by the real you.

The problem with the front is that it needs to be constantly maintained. It takes a lot of energy not to let that mask slip. You have to constantly filter everything you say and do and analyze whether it matches up with the front. Besides, if others see the real you, they probably don’t relate to you anymore – they related to your front in the first place.

KRISTJAN

Smaller is better

Almost anything is better at small than big. Small is compact, weighs less, is more portable, usually more flexible and overall more efficient.

Small cameras are better than big cameras. Big cameras are clunky, weigh a lot, cost more, are trouble to carry, etc. Small cameras are easy to carry; they fit in your pocket. Result: you’re more likely to take pictures.

Big cars vs. small cars – big cars are more expensive, harder to maneuver, take more gas.

Small apartments vs. big apartments. Small is easier to maintain, takes less time to clean – therefore you have more time for doing things that matter. Also, you can’t fill it a lot of stuff. And more stuff is what makes life more complicated.

When traveling, a smaller suitcase is better. You have less stuff, which means you’re more mobile. You don’t have to drag around clothes and shoes and a lot of unnecessary stuff. This makes traveling easier and more fun.

Small companies often catch up with big companies very quickly. Why? Because they are more efficient, they don’t have bureaucracy. Everyone does everything – information moves very quickly, and action is also taken quickly.

It’s better to have a small share in 100 companies than a big share in 1 company – no matter how big that company is. Why? If that one company busts, you bust. In other words, don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.

Small is better because of its maneuverability, portability, flexibility, and antifragility.

KRISTJAN

Escaping life vs. living life

If you do an audit on your life, how much time do you spend escaping your life and how much of it is actually living it?

The way I see it: most people are “plugged into the Matrix” existing as an energy source to the system. They spend most of their time on their phones, watching ads, and buying things. They don’t want to stand out, they are constantly worried about their status (phones, clothes, cars), and they do what their body wants at that particular moment (biological drives). This kind of person is perfect for the system.

Not to diss on these people, because they simply don’t know any different. Yet they have so much potential to be anything they want to be.

And I’m not saying that I’m enlightened and “look at me, I’m so much better than these people.” I spent a good decade simply derping around being in a haze. So, no, I’m not above anyone at all. I’m only beginning to grasp the possibilities and values of life. I’m just scratching the surface, and I have a long way to go.

Think about the things you do – do you do them because they’re fun/interesting/value giving, or do you do them to numb yourself.

It’s not really the thing; it’s the “why” behind it. Let’s take going on a vacation e.g., You can have a vacation to explore, to experience, to have fun or you can do it to numb yourself – to escape life. Many people do anything to not deal with their life. To be in some meaningless constant action – anything really – just to not deal with life.

So, next time you load up a movie or series – ask yourself: “do I watch it because I really want to watch it or do I do it because I want to ‘escape’?”

Don’t escape life – you’re not going to live forever, and do you really want to spend the majority of your life on things that don’t matter? Set up your life in a way you don’t need to escape from it.

KRISTJAN

The “green lumber fallacy”

What do we need to know to make decisions? It turns out we might often be very wrong about the data we actually need in order to have success.

The term “green lumber fallacy” is a term coined by the investor & philosopher Nassim N. Taleb and it describes the story of a very successful trades who bought and then sold green lumber. He made a fortune trading it, yet as it turned out – he had no idea of what he was trading. He thought that ‘green lumber’ meant wood painted green. Yet, he later found out that it was actually freshly cut lumber.

The moral of the story is that, in order to make successful investment decisions, you don’t need to know the product. When you trade with oil, there’s no need to know the politics of middle-east or the history of Iraq. It’s because they’re entirely different areas. Would you be great at politics if you know about investing? You could, but you could also not. E.g., would you bee good at math if you’re good in history? Again, you could be, but you could also not be.

Many people would take the investors as an idiot if they didn’t know that he made a lot of money nevertheless. And even then, many would think he was lucky. Which, of course, could also be the case. But the point remains.

So, be careful of others claiming to know what they’re talking about just because they know about a related field. We need to be also wary of ourselves – we might not know what we’re doing even though we think we do. Just because you have a degree in computer science, doesn’t mean you know about front-end development. Just because you know wedding photography, doesn’t mean you know about street photography and vice versa.

Of course, knowledge of other fields can help. Obviously, knowing how to make photographs, helps you in any form of photography, but a distinction needs to be made: are you successful in your field because of ‘that’ or in spite of?

KRISTJAN

Maintaining your self-image

Here’s something you might’ve not known about yourself: in your field, you’re probably not as good as you think you are. And, this is especially true for people who are just starting out (count me in).

We’ve all noticed how many beginners quickly become very cocky in their abilities. They might have humility in the beginning, but after a while, many begin to think they’re one of the best in the world.

I came back from my travels thinking I would start winning prizes with my pictures but Gideon just flicked through the prints saying that most of them were shit, and he was right.

Mikhael Subotzky

They start to think that they know everything. A lot of them even become arrogant and start to look down on others – even to their own teachers. How crazy is it for a student to look down on his own teacher? It’s as if they get intoxicated with some of the success they have.

Some might say that they’re overly confident, but ‘confidence’ is definitely not the correct word here. The right word is ‘the ego.’

Once they ‘made it,’ their ego forms a certain self-image. It’s an identity of who they are, what they know, the status they have among their peers, etc. Once this self-image is formed, it needs to be maintained.

Maintaining a self-image means to live up to the standards of this self-image. If they think they know everything, then that means they can’t possibly be wrong. After all, how can you be wrong if you’re one of the ‘best’ in the world?

E.g., when they have a different opinion than their colleagues, they can’t possibly admit that they’re wrong. This would threaten their self-image and their ‘greatness’. So they need to assure themselves that they’re right and the other person is wrong – even if deep down they know that they might be wrong.

The problem is that if you know everything, you can’t learn anything new. You will have a distorted view of the world, and sooner or later you’ll fall flat on your face. The more delusional they are, the harder the fall will be. Life will make sure you’ll get a reality check.

The solution is to let go of this need to maintain some image. Always remain a student. Tell yourself that no matter how much you know, you still don’t know anything.

This makes life so much easier because if you allow yourself to be wrong, you don’t need to waste any energy on maintaining a front – you can be just you. You won’t become paranoid about whether you’re right or wrong. Besides, it doesn’t matter who’s right – it’s not about you – it’s about the truth and the bigger picture.

KRISTJAN

Don’t check your phone before doing your work

Checking your phone for news, updates, emails, notifications for new messages, feed updates for Facebook, Instagram, etc. before doing your work might seem trivial, but it has great implications on your work.

Right the moment of writing this, I’m sitting in a cafe, and there’s a guy sitting next to me. He came after me, laid some papers on the table, and then took out his phone.

Now, I’m not judging or criticizing; I’m simply bringing an example. We all recognize ourselves in this as well. We all do that.

Since he sat down all the way until he put away his phone to do his work, I’ve finished at least half of an article (a different one) + started this one.

It’s common for people to come to cafes to work or study only to end up spending most of the time on their phones while the books and papers simply lay on the table.

It’s a real issue. I’m quite sure they want to do the work but for some reason, spend a lot of time doing something else instead.

And, even if your intention is to check your phone for 30 minutes before starting your work, I still think it’s a really bad idea to look at the phone before doing your work.

But first, how do we end up spending so much time on the phone even though we just want to have a quick look? That’s simple – just go back to the first paragraph of this article: there’s just too many different apps and information channels to go through.

But even if you manage only to give your phone a quick look no more than a couple of minutes, it’s still a bad idea to do it before starting your work.

You let all these distractive thoughts enter your mind; you become reactive instead of active. Based on my own experience, I never feel good and focused if I look at my phone before work.

I always feel distracted, tempted to check my phone again and again and again and I have to use extra energy to resist these temptations, and if I do slip, then it becomes even harder to resist and so on. It’s a downward spiral.

So the key is to turn off your phone, turn on the airplane mode or make it fully silent, put it into your bag, so you don’t even see it, sit down and do your work. Do not look at the phone a single time until your work for today or for that particular session is done.

This way, you’ll be able to not only get a lot done, but you’re able to reach deeper levels of thoughts and ideas that are impossible if you let yourself be distracted.

Again, not to criticize the guy (he’s my Guinea pig for this article) but by the time I’m writing this and wrapping up my article, he has spent most of the time looking at his phone over and over again and not doing much reading.

As said before, I think it’s a widespread problem many people are having. They want to do the work but find it more and more difficult to do.

I was like this for a very long time. I couldn’t focus at all, and I didn’t even know the reason was that I distracted myself all the time. I didn’t know browsing websites and checking my Facebook could have any impact on my ability to focus. I even turned on notifications for everything I could – I thought it’s cool and normal to have your phone buzz constantly while you “work.” After all, that’s how many others did their working.

The truth is, however, that it affects our focusing ability a lot. Our brains have to adapt to a new task, and it takes time. Switching between these tasks doesn’t happen as fast as we would wish. It can take around 20 minutes for our brains to adapt to a task fully.

It’s scary to think of the kids who grow up with iPads and their parents constantly checking their phones – that they grow up in a world where a lot of people are always distracted by whatever impulse comes in their way at that moment. Their mind is trained to not focus deeply on anything straight from birth.

KRISTJAN

Survive to thrive

I like to write articles. Even though I might not write good ones every day, I write every day, and I do it for a reason. There are many pieces I’m not that proud of – and maybe could’ve even been left unwritten. However, once in a while, there’s one that I do like and hopefully helps or inspires someone.

We don’t feel like doing our work or art (work=art) every day, but it’s important to stick to our commitment. On the days we don’t feel like doing our work, we need to survive and do it anyway. If we survive, better days will come by, and we will thrive.

The problem is that we only want to thrive and don’t want to stick to the ‘surviving’ part. We want the glory; we don’t want the boring, monotonous grind.

Would anything actually change if you would skip a day? If you would skip just one day going to the gym? No, nothing would change. Your life wouldn’t fall apart.

Except that if we skip one day, we start to rationalize that skipping is fine. We would start to tell ourselves that we already messed up our streak and that we can re-start some other day. This ‘other day’ becomes a week which becomes a month, which then becomes the part of a new year’s resolution.

The scary part? We can rationalize like this until the day we die. Have you been putting something off for a very long time? Have you told yourself that ‘someday’ I’ll get this thing handled?

Doing something every single day is by far the most important part of making habits stick. However, this involves being in a survival mode for a good amount of time. If we survive, then and only then we can thrive. And even then, we sometimes need to go through the times of survival every once in a while.

In those times, it helps not to think very much and just ‘do.’ We have to detach our emotions and thoughts from the doing – the action.

We will not do our best work like this, but that’s not the point. Its purpose is just to get us through the hard times. Besides, it’s impossible to do our best all the time anyway. If you look at any successful artist, you see that most of their work is what they themselves call ‘a failure.’

Babe Ruth set the record for the most home runs in a season, but he also struck out more than any other player in his league.

Michael Jordan has apparently said the following: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Pablo Picasso produced an estimate of 50 000 works of art throughout his lifetime. How many have you seen?

Jay Z couldn’t find a record company to sign him, so he created his own record company.

Steven King’s novel “Carrie” was rejected so many times that he threw the entire thing in the bin.

J.K. Rowling was turned down by a dozen publishers for Harry Potter.

Last, but not least, the master of failure himself – Seth Godin: “I think it’s fair to say that I have failed more than most people.”

Seth also perfectly sums up the whole thing I wrote above:

“If you never fail, then you haven’t done anything. If you’re failing consistently in a way where you get to keep playing, that’s pretty cool.”

KRISTJAN