November Update

Hi, everyone!

I know I’ve been basically MIA for the last month, but I have not been idle. I started re-reading “4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss and started to take the lessons to heart. Instead of just reading the book I started taking the proactive steps that he recommends to accomplish my long-term goals.

There was one question asked in the book that really struck home and pulled me away from blogging for a while.  “Are you inventing things to do to avoid the important?”. Sadly, I was doing that, a lot. This blog was one of the things that I would use as an excuse for why I wasn’t writing my book. I justified ignoring my book on the grounds that I wrote for my blog, but the result was zero pages of book and dozens of blog posts of varied quality. I was using my creative energy towards something that wasn’t in line with my long term goals.So, I wrote that question on a post-it, stuck it to my monitor, and got to work.

Another concept in the book that altered how I work throughout the day was going on a “low-information diet”. I realized that I spent hours on sites like Facebook each day and it really didn’t benefit me. What did I gain through hours of scrolling and reading articles? Sure, I was “informed”, but how did that help my life? The information I read online would anger me or tempt me into debating someone online for no reason, but that create anything. It didn’t help me with my book, it didn’t earn me more money, it didn’t increase the quality time I had with my partner or friends. All it did was take up my time and drain my  mental energy.

Now, I have a Chrome app that only allows me to go on Facebook for 10 minutes per day. The result? I still get the information I need to be “informed” and if I need to get in touch with someone or ask for help on Facebook then 10 minutes is plenty of time to do it. I got hours of my life back each day and I have been redirecting that energy towards improving my daily life and working on my long term creations.

The most important accomplishment in the last month was my writing. I finished the first draft of my book. I went from a blank page to about 40,000 words in 25 days. I would trade over a year of Facebook time for a completed first draft, a month was a very small price. My second accomplishment is my meditation practice, it is still incredibly difficult but I meditated 28 days out of November and I’m up to 20-minutes a day. I have also started training myself to dance with poi, which at this point has done little more than make me realize how uncoordinated I am with my left hand, but I’m enjoying it.

There were other accomplishments as well… cooking new meals weekly, running or biking almost every day (including a 10-mile run), relearned Trigonometry and pre-Calculus on Khan Academy, started a daily Stoic reflection, and teaching myself GIS and data visualization on Coursera. By re-evaluating what I spend my time on and discarding the things that weren’t in line with my goals I ended up with plenty of time in the day. Instead of scrolling Facebook, doing dishes three times a day, or checking emails, I’m working on things that will help me move forward in life. I still clean and check emails, I just don’t do them as a way to put off the difficult work I should be doing. I had to ask myself, instead of spending 15-hours per week (or more) surfing Facebook, what else could I do with my time? How would my fitness level improve if 1/3 of that time went to exercise? Could I become fluent in a foreign language, subject matter, or musical instrument if I spent an hour a day focusing on those instead of reading political blogs? Am I using my time in a way that is going to help me experience the things that I want to experience?

So, now that I have my time somewhat under control, what are the other pain points in my life? What behaviors do I have that are not taking me to my goals? The first one that stands out is alcohol consumption. In November I consumed 52 alcoholic drinks (and I’ll probably drink a couple tonight at Naughty Bingo). I am not saying I should abstain, alcohol consumption can be justified as both a goal of life (it brings pleasure) and as a tool for long-term happiness (helps make friends), but it is clear that isn’t the case for ALL my drinking. Those 52 drinks last month equal about 2.5 lbs of fat from calories (roughly), and it also cost me around $200. Not only that, if I drank more than 3 drinks in a night my average time running the next day was 9 minutes, if I drank less than three drinks my average running time the next day was 25 minutes. Drinking clearly comes with some direct and indirect costs. My plan for December is to cut alcohol consumption in half, so only 26 drinks during the month and only one night with over 3 drinks.

How I spend my money is another place that could be improved, particularly when it comes to books. Right now my bookshelf has 44 unread books, 3 books I’m currently reading, and 16 completed books. All of these books were purchased in the last two months. I need to re-evaluate how I decide to purchase books. So, I’m taking all my credit card information off of Amazon. If I want to purchase a book I need to enter in the card information by hand each time. I’m also going to try and put a 48-hour waiting period on all purchases (is there an app for that?). I can’t think of a single scenario where I need a book in a tight time frame. Also, no new book purchases until my “unread” shelf is down to ten books, which means I either read 34 books or I realize that I will never read them and I donate them to the used bookstore down the street.

I also need to figure out how to make friends, as lame as that sounds. It is tough as an adult in a new city to meet people, particularly when I work from home. I’ve started working through Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and it has some great tips that I’m going to proactively use, but I’m such an introvert and homebody that it is hard to force myself out of my shell. Luckily, Wilmington has a ton of opportunities for me to do social things around my interests (Dungeons and Dragons, board games, yoga, fitness, rock climbing, vegan, spirituality, etc). This isn’t really an area that I’m wasting time or energy, it is an area that I haven’t dedicated resources to like I should. Instead, I have gotten in the habit of focusing all my friend energy into Facebook (don’t get me wrong, I love my connections on there, but I need something more physical in my life).

So, that is how my November went. I didn’t announce a lot of this stuff ahead of time because I’ve found that announcing something actually discourages me from accomplishing it. Saying “I’m writing a book!” feels like it is productive when it really isn’t. It is better for me to write a book and say “I wrote a book!”. Looking forward to making that announcement is an incentive for me.

I’m looking forward to December and to seeing how my new goals and projects work out. I may try to blog a little bit, but only if I feel a real drive to do it. It can be stressful sometimes, but I try and remember to not take any of it too seriously. The point of life is to have fun, not to be 100% productive. If I have a few days (or more) where I accomplish nothing, that’s cool. Sometimes you need to lounge in front of Netflix with pizza and Oreos instead of going to the gym. Immediate pleasure is sometimes reason enough to do something.

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Why I Run

It took some effort to pull my front door open, it always sticks on cold mornings. That’s just one of the quirks of this weird old house. As I stepped out into the morning air my dog looked up at me from the couch with a look of confusion and disgust. “What the hell are you doing human? If you are going out there at least close the door, I don’t have thick fur.” he seemed to say.

What the hell was I doing? It was bitter cold out, autumn has overtaken summer with a vengeance and the air burns my lungs in the morning hours. My hands immediately start to curl up in search of warmth, reminding me again that I need to buy some gloves. Oh well, I can buy gloves later. Right now I’m going to run in a big circle around a park a few times with the soccer moms and retired folks.

The reasons I run are varied, and I need all of them to keep me moving. Getting out the door usually requires me to focus on the short-term benefits. Running wakes me up and suppresses my appetite to prevent snacking. It also gets the blood flowing through my body and clears my head. Running in the morning has consistently improved my  job performance and my writing, and it keeps me motivated to take care of my body and life. When I don’t run I’m more likely to spend the day on the couch with Oreos and Netflix being a sloth, but when I run in the morning I tend to get my errands done, eat fairly healthy, and get a lot of work done. This first positive action in the morning sets the tone for the day.

But those reasons really only get my out the door and to my first mental wall (usually around mile 2). I need more than that if I’m going to push past the walls and keep running. For that type of motivation, I need to focus on the long term and philosophical reasons I run.

The first reason, as cliche as it sounds, is my partner. My body is kind of a gift to her and I want to take care of it. I want to be healthy enough that our lives can be long and fun together and that means investing a little bit of time now for a big payoff later. An investment in me is an investment in us. I also really like it when my partner tells me she finds me attractive, particularly when she is specific. There is just nothing that boosts my self-esteem like when she wraps her hands around me and says “wow, I can feel your abs”. Is it superficial? Sure. Do I care? Not really. I like feeling sexy to her and myself. It is kind of cool to step out of the shower and see myself in the mirror and be happy with what I see.

The second reason is related to my partner. Well, it is at least related to our relationship. Since we have a “not completely monogamous” relationship I have opportunities to be intimate with others with my partner’s consent. I can’t really fall into the “now that we’re married she’s stuck with me so I can let my body go” trap if I want to keep having the sexual variety and experiences that I’m interested in. I realize that attracting a intimate partner (or to get people to keep sending me sexy snaps @pneiger) is more difficult if you don’t appear healthy, particularly when I can’t offer any type of romantic relationship. When I lack the ability to provide love for a future partner I need to make up for that in other ways, being fit and providing friendship is a way I can do that.

Another reason I run is kind of quasi-spiritual. I see my body as the most amazing gift I’ve ever received. I don’t think there is a god out there that gave me a body, but if there is one then it seems like I should show respect for that gift. I wouldn’t take something my mom gave me and treat it like shit, why would I do that with my body if it is a gift from a loving god? It seems pretty disrespectful to eat junk and neglect your health if your body comes from god. Anyway, I don’t really believe that, but I do think this life and body is a gift of sorts from the universe. As such, I want to treat it well and see just I can do with it. I love self-experimentation and my body is an opportunity to see what my potential really is. I want to try and run 100 miles or be physically fit enough to explore space someday. I want to try and live until the point when death becomes optional.

Running is also tied to my life philosophy of libertarianism and minimalism. I believe in personal responsibility, including self-defense. But self-defense isn’t just owning a well-maintained firearm and practicing your marksmanship because other humans are not the only danger we face. It is very unlikely that I will need to use my gun to save my life, but it is very likely that I will need a healthy heart and immune system to save my life. I exercise because I love my life and I want to increase the quality and quantity of it. Eating junk food and neglecting your health is to commit slow suicide, it is anti-life.  Life starts with the body. As for minimalism, if I want to live a life with few possessions and lots of leisure time, I need to stay healthy. Health expenses add up quickly and I need to take as much responsibility for minimizing those costs as my genetics will allow.

Like all philosophical views, this is just my ideal, one that I fail at regularly. I’m not trying to get on my pulpit and put others down (just last night I ate way too much ice cream and cookies and seriously slacked on my exercise), this is just meant to illustrate what I think about to keep my body moving when I hit walls while running.

Another source of inspiration is my nieces and nephews. I want to be alive and healthy throughout as much of their lives as I can. I want to celebrate victories with them and be there to comfort them when they are hurting. I want to provide guidance, support, and my perspective on life (if my siblings are foolish enough to let them). I’ve seen first hand with family and friends how being unhealthy can shorten the quality and quantity of your life. there are plenty of people my age (35) who can’t walk up stairs, play with their children, or travel because of their health. I want to postpone that as long as I can. I imagine this drive to be healthy and see their children grow up is even stronger in parents. I know how much I care for my nieces and nephews, but I’m sure that pales in comparison for the love parents feel. Maintaining a healthy body and being a good example seems like it would come hand-in-hand with parenting.

I don’t love running, but I don’t loathe it anymore either. It takes effort every day to get out and pound the pavement, but it is slowly getting easier and I keep finding more reasons to run. Hopefully, that continues and I’ll be in my 70’s running 8-minute miles around the park still.

 

Post-Script: I forgot one thing, I’m kind of a hedonist. I enjoy pleasurable experiences such as recreational drug use and ice cream. In order to balance the damage those experiences do to my body I need to exercise. A long life is boring if it doesn’t include pleasure.

What Do You Really Need?

I’m about halfway done with “Ego is the Enemy” (stop reading this blog and go buy this book) and a paragraph really stood out to me. Okay, in reality, there are A LOT of paragraphs that stood out to me, this is probably the most underlined and highlighted book I’ve owned in a long time, but one particular paragraph stood out even more. I think it is kind of applicable to my way of thinking right now.

The paragraph is:

It’s time to sit down and think about what’s truly important to you and then take steps to forsake the rest. Without this, success will not be pleasurable, or nearly as complete as it could be. Or worse, it won’t last.

This is especially true with money. If you don’t know how much you need, the default easily becomes: more.

I don’t really sit down and think about what is truly important to me enough. I get in grooves and coast along and just kind of go where the river is taking me. For the most part, I think that is fine, it is valuable to “row with the flow” as Halcyon says. But, if you want to accomplish something then you need to be able to articulate what it is or how much you need.

Money isn’t terribly important to me, but it is easily quantified. So, as a thought experiment, I sat down and thought about how much I really need to have the things I want in my life. Then, I can work backward from there to figure out how much I need to be paid or how much I need to work. Caution: we are going to get into some math.

Current Monthly Financial Needs:

  • Rent: $387.50
  • Cell Phone Bill: $50.00
  • Internet: $20.00
  • Electricity: $75.00
  • Water: $30.00
  • Food: $400.00
  • Renter’s Insurance: $5.00

So, that takes care of the lower levels of Maslow’s Heirarchy: food, water, shelter, and internet. The total is $967.50 per month or $11,610 annually. In order to pay for that, I need to work at least 30 hours a week at minimum wage before taxes. After taxes are figured in I need to work 42 hours a week at minimum wage. That sucks… but I am not making minimum wage so there is some flexibility. Just working for $10/hr gets my work needs down to 30 hours.

As cheap as that is, there are things that I want to do that cost money and aren’t really “needs”. First, is saving for retirement. I’m going to use the 4% rule and make some wild assumptions.

  • Assumption 1: I retire completely at the age 65. That gives me 31 years to save
  • Assumption 2: The inflation change between now and 2047 is the same as the inflation change between now and 1985. Which means to cover my needs I will need to withdraw $36,000 annually from my retirement.
  • Assumption 3: There will be no technological advancements that will significantly decrease the cost of any of my needs. I find this highly unlikely and expect many things like internet, electricity, water, and maybe even housing to be lower when I retire, particularly since I’m willing to move to a cheaper place to live.

So, with those assumptions, I need $900,000 in my retirement account when I retire. That means it grows by $29,000 per year for the next 31 years. Shit.

Well, maybe it isn’t that bad. Investment and retirement accounts accrue interest. Time for some more wild assumptions… If I take the average annual rate of stock market return of 10%** and move it to a more conservative 9% I can reach my goal of $900,000 by 2047 if I invest $500 a month in the account.

That seems pretty far-fetched but let’s see where this rabbit hole goes. I can’t reach my financial goals unless I actually articulate them. With retirement included in my calculation, I need a monthly income of $1467.50.

I also want to be able to have vacations and travel and such. I’m going to call this the “Burning Man” fund. I won’t be going to the Playa every year, but I am sure I will be going some places every year… Iceland, or a series of small festivals and events, etc. I am going to be more liberal with this estimate and allocate $3,000 a year to having fun like this ($250 a month).

I guess I should also start paying my student loans (maybe). They are another $500 per month, and I also want to take some classes like yoga ($100 per month), have a weekly outing to drink beer with friends ($100 per month), and improve the house ($100 per month).

Where does that put me?

  • Need: $967.20
  • Retirement: $500
  • Burning Man: $250
  • Student Loans: $500
  • Classes: $100
  • Weekly Fun: $100
  • Home Improvement: $100
  • Monthly Total: $2,517.50

To reach my goal I have a few options.

  • Reduce my goal by decreasing my living standard
  • Earn more money (I’d need an extra $750 or so per month given my current income)
  • A little bit of both

I think Option 3 is the best option. To help with that I need to get a hold of my copy of 4-Hour Work Week. In it, Ferriss talks about researching and setting realistic goals over time frames. I could likely reduce my “Burning Man” goal by planning and be more reasonable. I can also reduce my home improvement, weekend fun and classes expenses. I’d also like to start dumpster diving and finding other ways to decrease my “need”.

I’d also like to start bringing in more income. I can start working more at my current job, look into finding a part-time secondary job (unlikely), and work towards what I really want to do… be a writer. If I can focus on getting my writing polished and sent to publishers (or self-publishing) I might be able to bring in the funds I need to have the life I want.

That monthly total is a pretty lofty goal for me, but now that it is quantified I actually have a chance of reaching it. Instead of just needing “more” money per month, I need $2,517.50 per month.

** A friend of mine who is a financial planner says my 10% was way too optimistic and 5% is a more reasonable growth rate. With that, I need to add about $1,000 per month to reach my goal. So, my new monthly goal is $3,017.50 without any reduction in expenses. I think I’m going to plot out things one at a time in a more detailed way to see if I can reduce those costs.

Worry

I meditated today for the first time in over a week. My practice was thrown off by the trip to St. Louis and returning to Myrtle Beach has been stressful because we are in the middle of trying to move to Wilmington. I wish I would have stuck with my practice in St. Louis but, unfortunately, I found myself caught up in the day-to-day and am always kind of embarrassed that someone is going to catch me meditating. I don’t know why there is a bit of shame or discomfort about it… I should probably work on that.

Anyway, today was likely the most difficult 10-minute meditation I’ve ever had. I couldn’t get my mind to calm down at all and I felt like I was dragging through the whole thing. I beat myself up and judged myself a little bit, but eventually I just let the wild mind happen and made the best of it. My mind mostly wandered from worry to worry in my life, but upon examination I realized that my worrying was mostly a waste of time. Almost everything was beyond my control, or the things that I had control over I was already doing the best I could.

This election season is the most batshit terrifying of my life. Both primary candidates are unacceptable by most of the electorate and one only seems appealing because of how awful the other one is. There are all types of things to worry about how the President and government will run next year… but that’s the thing, we shouldn’t worry about that at all. It is 100% out of any of our hands. Our votes don’t really matter (particularly outside of a dozen or so “battleground” states), and even if our vote does matter all we can do is go to the voting booth in November and vote. We shouldn’t waste any real mental energy on it at all. Getting angry or afraid of the future only damages our own happiness.

I’ve also been stressing about finding a suitable house in Wilmington. I thought we found one but someone swooped in and turned in their application before us. I was angry at myself for not acting more quickly, except I shouldn’t be angry at myself. The past is the past, it is unchanging, it is a waste of my life to concern myself with it beyond using it as a lesson to change my behavior in the future. And I’m doing just that. I’m doing all I can to make sure we are in a position to apply quickly when a suitable house comes up. It is probably worth thinking about this process occasionally to make sure I am truly doing all I can, but when I am convinced that I’m doing all I can I should stop worrying.

Similarly, I have some interpersonal stress going on that involves some other people… but I can’t control other people. I can express how I feel and hope they change their behavior, or I can alter my behavior to “punish” them or try and hold them accountable, but if those actions actually make my life worse then I should just let it go. I only get to control my body and my mind, but those are the most important things. 99% of my life experience comes directly from my body and my mind, the rest is just noise. That is where I should focus…

  • If I feel like my body is unhealthy I can cut out unhealthy food and habits, eat better, and exercise
  • If I need more money I can sell things I own, cut out unnecessary bills, or try to work more
  • If my mind feels unstimulated I can start reading more or watch a documentary
  • If I’m unable to focus I can change my environment to make it more suitable for creation
  • If I am having trouble sleeping I can cut off the computer 2 hours before bed and get into better sleep habits
  • If my mind is a wild beast that can’t be tamed I can meditate or barf my thoughts into a blog post

Nearly every aspect of my life is within my control. And the things that are outside of my control I shouldn’t worry about because they are outside of my control. By focusing on them, stressing about them, letting them create anxiety, fear, or anger I let them creep into other parts of my life and give them control. I forfeit my relationships, happiness, and health when I worry about things that I can’t change.

So, I will strive to do better. I will work on me and not concern myself with the rest. My happiness belongs to me.

It’s all in my head

It’s been a shitty two days.

Yesterday, it basically rained all day. That is no good on a bike tour, it creates a snowball effect of suck that beats down on my mood and motivation. First, the rain turns roads into mush, particularly unpaved bike paths. The wet debris from these roads get in our gears and messes with the shifting. Then, the rain starts to screw with my phone, which I need to navigate. Add that to being cold and wet and knowing that our tent is going to be miserable to sleep in and it just gets me down. Also, it pisses Higgins off and he gets really uncomfortable, and when he gets uncomfortable he whines non-stop. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a dog whining behind you for three hours but it is a terrible sound. It is annoying and frustrating to know that you can’t help someone you love feel comfortable.

We had planned on sleeping at a campground but due to the rain (and closed roads and everything) we were running behind, we called one campground and they didn’t allow dogs. We called a second campground and they only had one spot left that they wouldn’t reserve for us. I knew it was unlikely the spot would still be free when we arrived around 2 hours later so we just decided to find a stealth camping spot on the side of the road.

Well, do you know what terrain is difficult to find a good camping spot in? Yep, swamps. And Louisiana is filled with swamps. We ended up biking around for way too long looking for a spot before we finally found something that would work underneath an interstate overpass about 20 miles from New Orleans. By time we arrived and set up the moisture from the rain and humidity had destroyed the battery on my phone. We were safe though, which I guess is something to be thankful for.

In fact, we had a lot to be thankful for. At some point today I was able to meditate a bit on my situation and turn my mood around. I was reminded again that my mood is under my control, even when a thousand things are not. I can’t control the rain, Higgins mood, the crazy drivers on the road, the construction on the bike path, or the shitty no dog or no reservations policies at campgrounds. But I can control my mood.

So, I took some deep breaths and recited over and over the words that always seem to calm me: This is the situation I am in. I can’t change the past but I can change the present.

I recite this chant a dozen or so times and my mood calms. I’m not happy, but I’m at peace. I start to focus on the amazing world we live in. The beauty of the natural world… the mountains in the background, the flowers in the sidewalk cracks, the birds chirping all around. The awe that comes from seeing what man can create… a plane flying high overhead, a building taller than every tree in the area, the levee I’m on holding the mighty Mississippi at bay.

The world is all around for us to be in awe of, if we allow ourselves. I fail daily to really appreciate what this world has to offer, and I am the one to suffer because of my limited ability to appreciate.

Intentional Scarcity

Being on a multi-year bike ride puts a lot of things in perspective, particularly how durable we humans are and how easy we have it in a lot of ways. Adherents to the Stoic philosophy often recommend that we all intentionally make our lives worse from time-to-time to remember what we can endure and be fortunate for how much we have. The ancients advised living on the street occasionally without warm clothing or travelling without shoes or eating less desirable food. I think this intentional reduction in the quality of life also increases our empathy for people that have less or are in less fortunate situations.

On the bike ride there are a few things that are significantly scarcer than they would be if we had a more traditional life, the most important of which are shelter, water, electricity, and food. Whenever I decide to turn on my computer I need to make sure I know that we have enough energy with us to keep our phones charged. The same goes for wireless data, I don’t want to dick around on Facebook too much or else I may not be able to work without incurring extra charges. Whenever we refill water we need to make sure we are confident that we will find more water sources before we run out. These are all things we keep track of on an almost subconscious level. We act thrifty with all our finite resources.

Shelter is the most difficult thing for us to know we will have. As we travel through Oklahoma right now there are not many campgrounds, or concentrations of people big enough for websites like WarmShowers.org or Couchsurfing.org to assist us. If you look at our route plan under shelter for the most of the next week it simply says “Offroad”. Offroad means we are going to try and find a place out of sight to set up our tent. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes it isn’t. If we are in a place with lots of trees it is fairly easy to find shelter, but right now we are in farmland, which offers little protection from the elements or prying eyes.

Last night, for example, we ended up setting up a tent off a highway. Unfortunately, we were not out of sight and all night long we were woken up by cars driving by and stopping with their headlights directly on our tent. I’m sure we were a curious sight and nobody meant us any harm, but it made for a terrible nights sleep. Also, there is a certain level of increased stress when you are sleeping in random place and you may not be allowed there. It is very easy to accidentally trespass or to break some stupid law. Luckily, last night the worst thing that happened was nosy people.

I think there is a perception that my partner and I are partying or shirking responsibilities because we are travelling for a few years. This isn’t a vacation though, we face struggles and challenges just like everyone else. They are different struggles to be sure, but that doesn’t mean our lives are easy. There is nothing easy about denying yourselves the comforts that come from a stable home, but it is worth it for us. It is challenging but it has made us both aware of some of the strength we have inside, and how little we really need to live with in order to thrive and be happy.

Things I Wrote: One Million Dollars, Thankful, Meditation

$1 Million

On one of the podcasts I listen to the host, Isaac Morehouse, was discussing imagination and mentioned one of the exercises he occasionally does is think long and hard about how he would respond to certain events, including receiving a bunch of money. The amount of money varies from experiment to experiment but the important thing is to give it some real though and itemize instead of just saying “Travel” or “Donate to charity”. Those things can happen but getting into the details allows our imagination to flourish, as well as keep us tethered to reality. This type of thinking (particularly thought experiments about how we would respond to bad events) is very Stoic in nature, so it definitely appeals to me.

So, I am going to itemize how I would spend $1,000,000 (tax free) as best I can. I don’t have internet access to look up particulars but hopefully I can really break it down and go into detail about how I would realistically spend that money.

  1. $67,000 – Pay off student loans. Getting out of debt would be my first move. While I feel no particular ethical obligation to pay back my student loans it does make pragmatic sense to do it.
  2. $250,000 – Set up a personal loan account to buy up my friend and families student loans or other debt. We could make repayment agreements where the payments and interest rate are very low. This is a system that would help me so much right now, it isn’t the minimum payments that kill me, it is the interest rates that basically guarantee I’ll have debt hanging over me for decades. I’d be thrilled if someone offered to consolidate my loans and give me a low (or zero) interest rate, I’d even set up a direct deposit so they are sure they would get their money.
  3. $200,000 – This would go into a safe, conservative (though hopefully interest bearing) account to provide for my future. Right now I can maintain the life I have for about $24,000 per year and this amount would keep me going without a need to work for the next 8 years or so. Not a lifetime but it is something.
  4. $125,000 – One time donations to non-profits I support
    1. $25,000 to DanceSafe to expand their harm reduction program
    2. $25,000 to MAPS for their MDMA therapy program
    3. $25,000 to Karma Rescue to help run the No-Kill Shelter in LA that we adopted Higgins from
    4. $25,000 to SSDP for scholarships to help get students to their conferences
    5. $25,000 to Wikipedia
  5. $100,000 – Provide financial support for 2-3 of my friends who are artists and would like to focus on their craft instead of working to make ends meet. This would probably be monthly payments.
  6. $75,000 – Build a “tiny house” to live in.
  7. $30,000 – Buy a used Subaru Outback
  8. $10,000 – Pay for myself, Anna, and some other friends to go to Burning Man
  9. $100,000 – Provide support for people on GoFundMe (and similar crowdsourcing programs).
    1. $75,000 – Those in financial need
    2. $25,000 – Those advancing technology that I support or have cool inventions
  10. $20,000 – Put aside for moving and set-up costs wherever we go after the bike ride
  11. $20,000 – Honeymoon in Iceland (and maybe other Nordic countries)
  12. $3,000 – Personal Purchases
    1. $500 – Get some really sweet home brewing equipment and start brewing more beer
    2. $1250 – A cool gaming computer
    3. $500 – Books
    4. $1,000 – Health stuff (cooking equipment, weights, nootropics, etc)
    5. $750 – MDMA for a year or more

Post Script: This was more difficult than I expected. $1 million is a lot of money and my estimates are probably a bit conservative here. I’d also like to really nail it down and get accurate in the future.

Thankful

There are many attributes that make up who I am. Some of them are all beyond my control and some I have a bit of control over. I have made decisions in the past that have lead me to where I am today, but much of my past (particularly in my early life) is, for lack of a better term, luck. I was born a white male in the USA to a stable family, that has given me an advantage over many people. I wasn’t born into money, but I also never wondered if I would have a meal or a safe place to sleep. I think it is important to reflect on the ways I am blessed and remember that other people are fighting through life without some of the advantages I have. So, here is a quick list of specific things that I am thankful for, some of them are a product of my choices but some are not.

  1. Teeth – I have healthy teeth. They aren’t particularly straight or white, but I’ve only had one cavity and I have taken pretty shitty care of my teeth. I rarely brushed daily and never flossed until Anna and I moved in together.
  2. Lack of Risk Aversion – I tend to take risks and not really worry about the downside. I don’t act without thinking, but having a bit of a risk involved in quitting my job or going on a bike journey or whatever doesn’t really deter me. I probably would be a business owner like my grandfather if I knew of something I cared enough about to create.
  3. Upbringing – I don’t see eye-to-eye with my parents on much but they were good parents who did their best. They were both around to support my education and personal development. I knew there would be food to eat and a place to sleep, even though sometimes we crammed several kids into a room. It was a loving and stable family.
  4. Immune System – I very rarely get sick. Part of this is genetics and part of it is lifestyle, I try to exercise regularly and eat fairly healthy.
  5. Stoicism – I tend to easily cope with bad situations. Some of this is natural to me but a big part of it is a combination of using MDMA as medicine and practicing ancient stoic techniques.
  6. Network of Friends – Due to growing up in Oregon, joining the Army, going to college in South Carolina, working in DC, living in Los Angeles, and travelling by bicycle I have a vast and diverse network of friends. We don’t always get along but I know that if I need support someone will be there to lend a hand, and I hope they know they can come to me for the same. Having a network that extends beyond a limited geographic region or political/economic/religious/social/racial bubble is something I am incredibly thankful for. I learn so much from having different viewpoints shared on my Facebook wall or in my life.
  7. Late Bloomer – Despite my current thoughts on sex and recreational drug use I was a late bloomer in these areas. I was a virgin until 23 and never even smoked pot until 24. MDMA wasn’t in my life until I was 28. Other drugs like shrooms, LSD, 2-CB, cocaine, ketamine, and 25-I trickled into my life after that. I am incredibly thankful that was the case. I am able to handle my drugs, and introduce myself to new drugs, in a responsible way. I am afraid that I would have made some pretty terrible mistakes if I had encountered drugs or sex in my teens, I was relatively immature socially. That doesn’t mean that I think the abstinence-only scare tactics that were employed against me is the best option, education in all these areas is a far better choice.
  8. Postponing marriage – I had two opportunities to get married before meeting Anna. The first would have been a disaster. The second could have been great but our life goals didn’t match up well. I am really, really happy I waited until I found someone that matched up with me in the important areas (kids, lifestyle, etc) instead of settling for someone. I don’t think people should have long lists of things they need in a partner, but you also shouldn’t give up things that are important to you. If one of you wants kids and the other one doesn’t then it is probably best to break up, there is no middle ground and guilting someone into doing something they don’t want can lead to resentment. The same can apply to desire to travel, importance of money, recreational drug use, etc. Sometimes love isn’t enough and no matter how much two (or more people) love each other their lives are just not going to match up well long term.
  9. Smoking and Addiction – I never really smoked. I used to carry a pack of Marlboro Reds with me when I went out drinking in DC but it never really materialized into an addiction. I don’t seem to be prone to addiction and have very easily stopped something cold turkey when I wanted to, even beer. Smoking seems like the worst habit in the world to me, and as much as I try not to judge I do tend to get a feeling of “eww” anytime I see someone smoking. It just seems to be the opposite of everything I value, but I recognize I am kind of an asshole for having this type of knee-jerk reaction.
  10. No Sweet Tooth – I don’t have a sweet tooth anymore. At some point in my life I just stopped desiring things like soda, candy, and cookies (except when stoned… then I will all the Oreos). Anytime I occasionally want something sweet I can eat on pop-tart or a handful of raisons. I do crave savory things a lot, but even that can be handled with some hummus or French fries.

Meditation

Meditation is one of those things that I know I need to add to my daily routine but have a lot of trouble with. I am convinced that the benefits are well worth my time but still keep having trouble doing it. I have the time, I just don’t use it wisely. There are plenty of opportunities throughout my day to spend 10 minutes in meditation. Well, starting at 10 minutes, I do hope to work my way up to more. But, alas, I spend too much damn time in the morning and at night staring at my phone or dicking around on Facebook. I need to find a better way to minimize my time on social networks, they produce a lot of value for me but at some point that value is sucked away and I realize I have been just scrolling and “liking” mindlessly for 30 minutes. I use Facebook to stay informed about the world and share articles that I find interesting, but I usually get that done in the first 10 minutes of logging on. Maybe I should limit myself to 15 minutes on Facebook in any given session, and also limit the sessions per day. In addition to my poor use of time, meditation is difficult for me. I can rarely get through one full breath without my mind wandering. I know I shouldn’t be hard on myself, and I know it will get better with practice, but I still get frustrated at times. Oh well, I am going to keep trying.