How to simplify your life –The School of Life

More wisdom from the School of Life.

Back when I was a young boy, there was a programme on TV called The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin. It was a series that ran from 1976-1979 but was repeated on terrestrial TV during the 80s and 90s.

It concerns the exploits of a Mr Reginald Perrin, a middle-manager who becomes disillusioned with his lot in life and proceeds to fake his own death, in the hope of starting over.

However, each time, with each new life his discontent returns and he finds himself in the same place, sometimes physically, but always spiritually.

It takes a lot of effort to change course, to avoid ploughing the same furrow, but unless we do, the outcome is always going to be the same.

On travel as a cure for discontent… –Alastair Humphries

A lot of wisdom here. I’ve often travelled to places thinking it may be somewhere better to live; that moving there may somehow make my life more fulfilled.

It could be that I’m adaptable and that I could try to make the best of it anywhere I go.

On the other hand, it could just mean that I subconsciously believe that relocating will somehow bring me closer to contentment.

I guess the goal is to find contentment in the here and now; to realise that our minds already offer more than enough space to explore and grow; and that for better or worse, it is with you wherever you go.

‘We’re doomed’: Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention –via The Guardian

As plough headlong into my forties, attention has switched to preparing for life as a pensioner a few decades ahead.

However, as time goes on I’m becoming less and less convinced that we humans have another 25-30 years left in us.

Global emissions were static in 2016 but the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was confirmed as beyond 400 parts per million, the highest level for at least three million years (when sea levels were up to 20m higher than now). Concentrations can only drop if we emit no carbon dioxide whatsoever, says Hillman. “Even if the world went zero-carbon today that would not save us because we’ve gone past the point of no return.”

Source: ‘We’re doomed’: Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention | Environment | The Guardian

We won’t change course –there’s too much money tied up in maintaining the status quo. Too much tied up in extracting fossil fuels and in removing manual labour from our lives.

We’re not very good at dealing with existential threats when we are conditioned to prioritise our own social status over all else. We will take work, even if it is contributing to our own demise.

Our actions rarely align to our narratives. We talk about saving the world, but we don’t change what we do. I’ve no doubt the planet will be fine long after us, but we humans are presiding over the Holocene Extinction and have been for centuries.

What have we changed? Oh, we’ve started netting hedgerows so birds can’t nest. What the hell?!

A letter to my 20-year old self…

From the day we are born until the day we die we are mostly making it up as we go along. Sure, our elders can impart wisdom all they want, but we can choose whether or not to listen to it.

As I’ve got older I’ve had the time to reflect on some things that I’ve done that, if given the chance, I wouldn’t do again. If I could write a letter to myself as a 20-year-old, this is what I would say.


Dear me…

Well done you, you’ve landed yourself a job and the joys of a regular income. Now, don’t let it go to your head. Firstly, put £100 every month into a savings account, without fail and do not touch it on pain of death.

By the time you reach the age of 40 you’ll have £24,000 plus interest, probably closer to £30,000 thanks to the magic of compound interest, sitting in a bank account ready for any rainy days or any midlife crisis. If you can stretch to 10-15% of your pay, all the better.

On the subject of money, never borrow money –ever. Definitely don’t borrow money for your first car, or your second car and never buy a car new. Better yet, never buy a car. It’ll make you fat, miserable and skint. Get a road bike instead. If you’ve put money away in savings like I told you to, you should be able to buy somewhere to live before the housing market takes a turn for the ridiculous.

Next, whilst gadgets can be fun, sometimes useful, they’re a money pit. Learn to make the best of what you have and stop waiting for the next iteration. Put your money in investment funds instead. Open-ended investment companies are magic. Yes, there will be a crash in 2008 caused by sub-prime mortgages in the US, but it’ll pass and the stock market will recover in time.

Money aside, if I can impart one piece of wisdom, one thing to live your life by, it’s this. Our minds have a wonderful way of filtering out the mundane and the routine. If you are not careful you’ll wake up one day wondering where the time went.

We only have one shot at life, but it ticks by one second at a time –use it wisely. The things you’ve wanted to do, whether that be to learn a language; learn to code; move to a different country…don’t wait. If you leave now you’ll get to miss the UK imploding under the weight of a decision it made in 2016 that it was never equipped to make.

Most importantly, your instincts are usually correct. If something doesn’t feel right, there’s probably a good reason.

‘Swedish death cleaning’ is the new decluttering trend –via TreeHugger

Several years ago, I said to my mother in frustration, “It would be a nightmare to have to deal with all this stuff if you died tomorrow.” She looked at me, stunned. Up until then, I suspect she’d assumed that everyone appreciated her junk-treasures as much as she did. What ensued, mercifully, was a house purge. Mom removed much of her stuff and ceased her weekly pilgrimages to the thrift store, avoiding temptation.

Source: ‘Swedish death cleaning’ is the new decluttering trend | TreeHugger

What an excellent article. Before buying anything else, perhaps it’s time to think of the people who will have to sort through our junk after we’ve gone?

Why be alone when you never have to?

Well, the answer is that never being alone is not the same thing as never feeling alone. Worse yet, the less comfortable you are with solitude, the more likely it is that you won’t know yourself. And then, you’ll spend even more time avoiding it to focus elsewhere. In the process, you’ll become addicted to the same technologies that were meant to set you free.

via – The most important skill nobody taught you

Some more wisdom here. It goes onto say:

Interestingly, the main culprit isn’t our obsession with any particular worldly stimulation. It’s the fear of nothingness — our addiction to a state of not-being-bored. We have an instinctive aversion to simply being.

Why is it so hard to buy a house?

Russell Howard nails it here. However, housing is just one part of a very unsettling picture that seems to be emerging.

Houses may be difficult to buy now, but the road ahead is looking bleak. There has been little incentive to save for so long that few of us have any money to fall back on; many of us are dependent on apps and “gig economy” work to pay the bills and what little housing there is is being rented back to us by people who have all of the money; are immune from the economic rollercoaster and are not worried about having a roof over their head.

The prospect of limited housing; compressed wages and mountains of debt make me fear for the future.