Value: August

Summer is rapidly coming to an end, but there has been a couple of things to bring me value. This is a monthly article and it's also an article that I enjoy writing. It allows me to reflect on the best moments of each month and share them with you.


Game of Thrones season 7  

Game of Thrones returns for its seventh and penultimate season back in July with only eight episodes. No spoilers in this, so don't worry. It's been another season of amazing moments, bloody battles, and character development. At this point in what will be an eight season epic, I am deeply invested in the characters and have an idea of how the show will end, though I doubt I'm the only one with a theory. I choose the TV shows I watch very carefully, sometimes I find myself quitting halfway through, like The Walking Dead, I'm glad to say that GOT continues to be a show that I look forward to every season.


Xbox one

After a year and a half of not playing video games, which I plan to talk about in a later article, I've finally returned to my oldest hobby. I've been trying to find a more intentional way of approaching gaming, which, in all honesty, is quite an expensive hobby. In order to achieve this, I plan to question every game purchase I make and Move to a completely digital platform. Time will tell if this will work and I will update this at some point.


   Enjoy the rest of the month ya'll :) 

No spending challenge: The final update

Hello, all. It's been approximately two months since I started my 'No spending' challenge. The goal of the challenge was to really get to know me, my spending habits, and how easy/difficult it would be to only buy the bare essentials (toiletries and food) plus a little for charity and experiences. The challenge was originally set at four months, June through October, but I have decided to shorten it to two, for two specific reasons. Firstly, it's a bit boring to write four articles that for the most part, would end up looking similar and I'm sure you would find it just as boring reading them as I would writing them. The Second reason is the thing I want to discuss today as I feel that this has improved the way I view my financial resources, and that is the power of saying no!.  

When I started the challenge on June 14th, I was quite alarmed by how easy I acclimatized to my new habit. It didn't make me not want stuff, being a minimalist will not stop you wanting that cool new phone or games console. What minimalism does do is add a bit of mental friction into the buying process. Instead of automatically buying, you question whether that thing will A) Add value, B) Bring pleasure. Is there a place in your life for that thing?. Most of the time there is not. But with the challenge, the answer had to be no to everything except those things that I could buy. As a reminder, here are the things I could buy.          

  • Consumables (Food + Toiletries) 
  • Experiences (Theatre + Books + Holiday's + Eating out + Movies)
  • Regular bills (Rent + Gym + Spotify + Web hosting + Haircuts + Travel)

My lifestyle will differ from most, so some things are specific. I love to travel, so paying for that is derive immense value from, and I love the theater. So, if I happened to be in a game store and saw a brand new PS4 pro, I would say "That's cool, but no! I can't get it". It's not that I don't have the money, I do, it's more about not actually needing it. You may think that my chosen acceptable things are a bit extravagant, like holidays and the theater, but it's important to point out that my goal was not to deprive myself of the things I like, but instead, to intentionally focus my resources on those things; eliminating everything else by simply say, No!.

I have been keeping track of every expense since June 14th ( beginning of challenge) up until now, and I haven't broken the rule at all. There have been things that I wanted, but I said no, knowing that it wasn't necessary. For example, the new Converse flynit sneakers, the Xbox one X. I can't say I will never get these things if there is a place in my life for them, but that is a decision for another day. Having taken this message of 'No' to heart, I feel I can bring this challenge to an acceptable end. It is these experiments and challenges that allow us to learn more about ourselves and our drives. It's a challenge that I'm glad I implemented and one I have learned from.            

Little and often: The secret to forming successful habits

Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after you have subtracted you bad habits, from your good ones. - Benjamin Franklin

I'm a doer, it's in my nature. I think, then I act accordingly. To be able to act on situations mundane or otherwise is a necessity for our survival as human beings. With every individual striving unstoppably towards the future, acting according to the situations provided, there is an unavoidable consequence of acting... Failure. Failure stalks our every action like some large, great stalking thing. I have been questioning what role failure play's on the foundation of solid habit forming and what, if anything, we should learn from our failed attempts to implement habits in the past.  

We all fear failure, but why? we tried!. surely you can only count something as a failure if you just didn't act?. Perhaps trying isn't enough, let us remember the immortal words of Yoda, " succeed or fail, there is no try". No matter what way you choose to look at failure, we shall all experience it at some point. I've never failed an exam or essay, but one place I have failed regularly is the implementation of new, better, habits. Whether it be a new morning routine or setting a gym schedule, I have alway's failed. I think these things are bound to fail because of how eager I and perhaps you, are, to the idea of changing our daily life's, for the better. Reality soon kicks us into touch and we soon revert back to safer modes of living.

Over the past several months I've been looking for a way of combating this and I believe I have found the best way (for me) to form better habits. First -  We must know what habits we wish to change; write them down but keep it to a minimum as we don't want to get fatigue. Here are some of the habits I want to implement.

. Read more

. Exercise more 

. Write more

The next step is what I call the 'Little and Often' process. Every day I make it my duty to practice all three of the habits I want to improve. I don't set myself a time, as most people don't stick to a time anyway, all I do is say to myself, "I must read a 'little'" or "I must exercise a 'little'". By writing this essay, I am fulfilling my want to write a little. As I mentioned above, we are very excited to see a change in our life's, we simply want to see it quicker. We must be intentional with our habits and be willing to make the change, but we must also remind ourselves that Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will the improved you. So implement your chosen habits, into small intentional acts every day. No shortcuts, no giving up, no excuses.  

 

 

Wealth report: July

Money won’t make success, the ability to make it will. - Nelson Mandela

I hope your all having a great summer everyone. It's that time of the month where I like to discuss my personal finance over the last month. It's been a fairly quiet month, apart from the 'man flu' I had at the start, which was rather unpleasant. Anyway, without rambling further, let look at money matters over the course of July. 


An increase in Emergency Fund:

I made the decision to remove £500 from my ISA and place £200 in my emergency fund, making £700 (six months expenses). The remaining £300 has been placed in a separate account, that may end up getting used after the completion of my 'no spend' challenge, in October, which I talk more about below. I am still very happy with my ISA amount, as It remains above my 2017 goal, but I plan on setting up an automatic monthly investment next month.


Tenerife Holiday taking down a peg: 

I currently have two trips in the works, one is a month-long trip across the United States, which I shall discuss later this year. The other is a more conventual trip to Tenerife. It's been a very interesting two and half years, not to mention difficult. Two years of university, my depressive period, turning to minimalism, not to mention not having been on holiday for many years. I made a £250 payment, leaving a total of £407 to pay. The holiday will be fully paid by September. How much I'm taking as spending money is yet to be determined, I reckon around £300 will suffice. 


Implementation of 'No spending' challenge: 

Since June, I have been on a mission to change my spending habits. I gave myself the challenge of spending money only on 'non-consumable goods', experiences, and charity; no tech, no clothing. If you wish to read more on this challenge, check out my 'No spend challenge'. Up to now, everything is fine and dandy, but I can see me having to replace some things, come October.


Pretty quiet month, this month, which I prefer. Hope you all have a fantastic and profitable August.

 

 

 

 

Value: July

It's official, summer is here. For many, this means sun, sea, sand, and the other. For a Scot, this means rain, thunder, and hail. Summer hasn't been too kind this year, but that happens sometimes. So let lighten  up these dark summer days with what's been giving me value this month.


Preacher TV show

The second season of the TV show 'Preacher' started this month. The first season brought a much-needed cleansing of the palate, with its irreverent look at the weirdness to be found in modern America, religion, and relationships. I love the idea that there is an entire world just below the surface of our daily humdrum one. The world only seen by those who know how to ask the right questions, often leading to disturbing, if darkly humorous, events. 'Preacher' is an adoption of a 90's graphic novel, but it's unlike any 'comic book' TV show you've ever seen.


Norse Mythology: By Neil Gaiman  

Usually, I can get through about 3-4  books a month, but this month has been a dedication to a writer who is quickly becoming one of my favorites. The first book is a fairly short book of retold Norse myths called, quite aptly, 'Norse Mythology'. As someone who considers himself quite verse in the myths of the ancient Greeks and Romans, Norse mythology was a real eye opener to a world I was wholeheartedly unfamiliar. The 'real' Norse gods are very different from the Marvel Universe. Thor is a red-bearded, single-minded, fairly dumb God, who love nothing more than killing things. Odin is wise, but at times as trickish and underhanded as Loki. And speaking of Loki, he is everything you expect, in fact, apart from Loki actually being a 'blood brother' of Odin, not his son, Marvel has the character down to a tee. But there are so many other gods, like Frigg, Fray, Freya, Kviser, Heimdall. But what I enjoyed above all was how human these gods sometimes appear. The gods aren't immortal, they fear, love, eat and drink, they battle the same urges that we have, and above all, they are aware of their own mortality and their unavoidable fate.


American Gods: By Neil Gaiman

The TV adaption of Neil Gaiman novel was part of last months value post, so I just had to read the book. Firstly, this is a big bastard of a book, quite intimidating and has taking me the biggest part of this month to complete. I won't just copy and paste what I said in last months description, just know that it is a story of a man discovering a world below the surface of our own. The book also adds context, something that a TV series would take many seasons to do. If you have the time to spare and you love the show, you should read this.           

'No spending' challenge: July update

The lack of money is the root of all evil. - George Bernard Shaw

It's been almost a month since I started my self-imposed 'No spending' challenge. It's been a month of major wins, minor fails, and some interesting personal insights. 

  1. It's pretty easy... no, really!

Around ten days into the challenge, I realized just how easy it was. It reminded me of what I gave up Coca-Cola. I thought giving up something that I had drank every day for most of my life would be difficult, but it was remarkably easy. When we have what we need ( I.e food, house etc) anything else is optional, When I have what is necessary for me to live, I have 'enough'. That's an important word, 'enough'. Over the past month, I have taken to saying to myself, "I have enough". " I have enough books", "I have enough clothes". 

      2. The matter of food

As a Scotsman, you would more likely see me eating a 'full Scottish' breakfast rather than avocado on toast. Both meals, however, cost money. I'm not sure if it's my age or just how my lifestyle it at the moment, but I find myself eating out a lot. As I pointed out in my original post, I can eat out if I want, but too much of anything will lead to diminishing returns. I'm not sure about the number but I reckon I have spent just over £100 last month, just eating out!. I didn't lose track of my eating out spending, but I am not happy spending that kind of money every month on eating out. So between now (July 14th) and my next update (August 14th), I would like to drastically cut down on eating out.

     3. Refocusing on my core values 

Even after two and half years of practicing minimalism, the idea of owning stuff still weighs heavy on my mind from time to time. This it to be expected, Afterall, minimalism is not some kind of hypnosis or brainwashing! minimalist still need some stuff. But since starting this challenge I can't say I've spent much time thinking about the things I specified as 'not acceptable' over the next four months. A side effect of this is I have been able to focus on my three main core values (relationships exempted). These three core values are Writing, Reading, and health. Healthwise, I have kept fast food and chocolate to a weekend treat. The gym is quickly becoming my second home, spending around 2 hours, 4 times a day, there. Writing and reading are daily rituals for me, spending much of my time writing the best content I can for my benefit and anyone else who finds value in my writing.   

Conclusion for July

What the next three month bring is anyone's guess, but hopefully, I can improve and refine on the points I've mentioned here, time will tell. But, as I mentioned earlier, it's getting easier, though when something becomes easier, one can be prone to lapses, so I must stay vigilant of my own thoughts and behavior.       

Finding peace

While meditating we are simply seeing what the mind has been doing all along. - Allen Lokos

The moment I wake, I look to put myself into the best possible position to start the day in the most peaceful way possible. First thing, I clean my room (not that it's untidy) I simply like to revert my room back to a place where it looks it's best before I fell asleep. I straighten my bed sheets, place my laptop back on its shelf, shower, and choose what I'm going to wear for the day. My bedroom window looks out onto a wooded area; I open my window to allow the sounds of the forest in. The birds sing their morning songs, different birds with different tones and tunes. The scuttle of squirrels as they run up and down the bark of trees. A slight shower of rain drips onto the window creating perhaps the most peaceful sound one could imagine, It's a sensation that can put you closer to nature.

It's still dark outside, but I keep the lights off, there's no need for artificial light yet. I make my way through to the kitchen, pour a large glass of water and wolf it down. If you haven't quite woken yet, this will help. I boil the kettle and make my morning cup of coffee, an experience in itself when it's aroma hits the nostrils. Depending on what I currently have available, I make a small breakfast, sit down, and just enjoy the peace. A bit of soothing music perhaps? some Johnny Mathis maybe. At this point, I'm awake, clean, caffeinated and ready to go. I open my laptop and begin to write the best possible content I can, In fact, I'm writing this after just completing this process.      

I treat this period of time, as my 'peace' period, almost meditative in its nature. It creates a framework in which I can be at my best in all areas, taking on whatever the world throws at me. I used to wake up, wash, and go to work, in what seemed like a dream, as I hadn't woken yet. I still have a job, but for the betterment of my health, I allow myself this time, this 'peace period', to be at my optimum ability. You may share some of my morning routines and may add or subtract some elements. Create your morning framework and allow yourself to find peace within.     

June: Wealth report

Money is like water; it will escape your grasp unless to put it in a container, just choose your container wisely. - Conor Mitchell

I created this blog both as a way of spreading the message of minimalism and the benefits of said lifestyle, but it is also my way of providing accountability for my own actions. Along with writing, Personal finance is one of the passions I found soon after my move to a more intentional life. I started to question my financial decisions as much as my buying decisions. So, every month I would like to share with you all a broad overview of my financial life i.e what I have and what I do with it. Hopefully, someone finds value in some of the decisions I make, perhaps taking a firmer grip of their finances also.

Building up the emergency fund

I'm a big believer in keeping an emergency fund, a little bit of money set aside for a rainy day. I've been contemplating how much to keep in savings for a while now, but I believe I have got a decent plan. I'm going to keep a minimum of £500, which covers 4 months of expenses ( I'm currently a student) and when it comes to the time of leaving my parents, I can add more when needed, adjusted for the situation. I imagine I will add to this during the year, depending on the scarcity or abundance of funds.  

Investment milestone reached  

I am not an investment professional, any content should be taken as advice only. Please do own research before investing. 

I personally invest in mutual funds (CF Woodford Equity accumulation to be precise) and managed to hit my goal of investing £1,500.00 this year. I believe It's extremely important that you put your money to work for you and is a must! for Millennials who hope to have a certain quality of life when in retirement. In order to complete my emergency fund I will most likely avoid adding to my fund this year, but if able, I may think about it.

Tenerife trip 

Back in April, I booked a small holiday to Tenerife, for next February, in order to escape the dreaded Scottish weather. In total it will cost around £1,300.00 (including spending money) although the holiday itself is £1,057.00. I made a £100 payment this month, making the remaining balance £675, to be paid by October. Next year will be a busy year for traveling as I plan on traveling around the USA next summer, but more on that when the time comes.

Well, that's all for this month. If you enjoy my article, please like and if you'd like, leave a comment. :)               

Value: June

There are two seasons in Scotland: June and winter. - Billy Connoly

Summer has finally arrived, bringing the sunshine back to my bleak home of Scotland. Living in a country with very few day's of nice weather, I tend to get a lot of value from a couple of days of sunshine. I would also like to share some other things that have given me a lot of value over the month of June.

Brother DS720d portable scanner 

In my never-ending mission to bring simplicity to my life, I decided to scan many of my paper documents, shredding those I deemed unnecessary. The scanner itself weighs around the same as a typical smartphone, and with the scanner, the size of a rolled up magazine, it is super...well... portable. I plan on writing an essay on the effect of physical clutter and the benefits of digitalising, so stay tuned for that. I highly recommend this scanner if you are also looking to cut down on all that paper build-up.

Sam Harris 'Waking up' podcast

Sam Harris, the philosopher, and neuroscientist produces a podcast focusing on the important questions of the day, from the argument against sugar to Donald Trump. I appreciate the unbiased manner of the show, and I certainly find myself disagreeing with things that Sam or his guests say, but I always come out more informed and all the better for it. Why not give it a download and put that long train journey, or lunch hour, to good use. 

Philosophy University module

This month brought to an end my first, second-year university module, philosophy. I couldn't possibly underestimate how much philosophy has helped me personally. It has improved my knowledge of philosophical concepts that I had a tentative grasp at best. I was introduced to philosophers that have become friends in a sense, like David Hume, Thomas Hobbes, and Immanuel Kant. Philosophy has played a part in my life for many years but having now studied it academically, it has cemented its place, not only in my mind but in my heart.

American Gods

The latest original TV show from Amazon is the adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel 'American Gods'. To provide an acceptable synopsis would be difficult, but here I go!. 'American Gods' is based on the idea that gods, through the power of belief, gained the ability to manifest into physical form, focusing on how the belief systems managed to make it to America. But the arrival of science and new 'gods' like TV and the internet, have damaged the power of the old gods i.e Norse, Egyptian. The art direction of this show is sumptuous, with an all-star cast to boot, from Ian McShane, Gillian Anderson, and Crispen Glover. The concept is fantastic, if difficult to get your head around, so if you have the time, give American Gods a watch.      

How about you? what's been giving you value this month?. please leave a comment below and if you go value from reading the article, please give it a like. until next time, have a great month :).  

 

 

 

 

'No spend' challenge

Mixing Minimalism with personal finance creates an unbeatable concoction. That concoction is the intentional focusing of monetary value. - Conor Mitchell

A couple of times a week I set aside an hour or so to read my favorite blogs. They range from minimalist blogs to men's style, but whatever one it may be, I get a lot of value from their writing. I was scrolling through the archive of 'The Minimalists' blog and I came across a selection of essay's from all the way back in 2011, initially titled 'Minimalist new year's resolution'. The essay, writing by Joshua Fields Milburn, outlines his challenge for the whole of 2011, the challenge being to no buy nothing except consumables and experiences, for the whole year. I hadn't read this essay before and it got me thinking, after two years of practicing minimalism, I've never gone a long period of time without buying something!. So, in a similar vain as Milburn, I have set myself the same challenge. Let's outline the rules.  

Things I can buy:

  • Consumables ( Food + Toiletries )
  • Investments and savings
  • Regular bills ( Rent + Spotify + Gym + Travel + Haircut + Web hosting + Phone payment )
  • Experiences ( Movies + Concerts + Eating out + Traveling )
  • Donations ( Political party donations + charity + Patreon donations )
  • Education ( Books + The great courses etc )

Things I can't buy:

  • New gadgets ( Video games + basically anything technical :) )
  • Clothing
  • Avoidable food ( Fast food + chocolate (within reason) )
  • No credit card usage ( No need for one, when I'm not buying anything )
  • No physical, none consumable, goods ( Books bought will be donated after reading )

It is important to point out that I'm not doing this to deprive myself, simply to prove that I already own everything I need. I will keep you all updated on a monthly basis, logging any struggles, fails, and successes. JFM did his challenge for the year, but, I'm aiming for four months at the moment. Wish me luck :).  

  

Best practices

If one seeks wisdom, one will find it. - Conor Mitchell

The way in which we consume ideas and opinions has changed dramatically over the past forty years, as has our propensity to receive advice. It may be that investment tip your work mate told you about, or the advice of your father on your current lifestyle. But the truth is, the advice is most likely, useless. With the rise of social media, advice has become quite ephemeral, asking perfect strangers how we should act towards a certain act. So, for the most part, we can't trust the advice of family members or Twitters, but where does that leave us? it leaves us with the concept of 'Best Practices'. 

'Best practices' is a concept that suggests that in order to exceed at anything, we must seek out those people who have achieved or are in the process of achieving a similar objective to you. It stands to reason that the advice and opinions of these people will be more beneficial than that of family or friends unless a member of your family has achieved what you want to achieve. 

Let's take an example. You and a friend are enjoying what is an odd treat for you, a burger. You're not fat, but certainly not thin, the gym would not go amiss. Your friend, on the other hand, is a savant of fast food, weighs 8 stone over what would be considered healthy for a man of his age. Would it be acceptable to receive advice on diet from this man, who has no intention of implementing his own flawed advice?. Of course not, and you would be a fool to receive and accept such advice.  

Instead, further your horizon, seek out people who do or are in the prosses of doing something you want to do or improve at. Read, listen, and actively talk to (if possible) people who truly have the knowledge you want. Let these people be your motivators, your teachers. If one seeks wisdom, one will find it, so go forth and seek.     

Walden: A reflection

Our lives are frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify - Henry David Thoreau

Last year I had the pleasure of reading 'Walden', a book written by the sociologist and who many consider an important figure in minimalism, Henry David Thoreau.The novel is writing as a reflection on two years of simple living on the edge of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and although the book may seem rather anachronistic, after all, it was writing in 1845, but the message the book convey's is as poignant right now as it was then. I'm not sure where this post will lead to, it may end up as a ramble, but we shall see what happens.

Walden is both a book of its time and also of ours. It was released at a time where not only American was changing, but the whole western world. Released at a time when the industrial revolution was ramping up, and in a way, drowned out the message of simplicity and self-reliance. In a way, the industrial revolution help creates the antithesis of what Thoreau believed in, consumerism. Although I would in no way say that the revolution was a bad thing, indeed it improved the life's of millions, although at the price of the poor who in a way, lost their personhood and were mostly ignored until Charles Booths famous 'poverty map' of the mid-1890's. But let's leave the argument over poverty for the moment, and talk about Walden.

HDT left for Walden pond, looking for something that he struggled to find in modern (19th century) life, a sense of solace, meaning and intentionalism. So he took action and started a new life only a few miles away from Concord, but from the book, you get the feeling that it felt like a million miles away. Thoreau wanted people to understand that life could have a lot more meaning and a damn sight cheaper if we only took the initiative to make a change. He built his own small wooden home, one room, a bed and a desk. He would sow his own crops, selling some to locals and lived off the rest and spent his days reading, writing and enjoying the splendour of the pond and the wildlife that surrounded it. Within the book, Thoreau condenses all of his expenses over the first year of simple living. All in all, it comes to around $28! that's including building the house.

All chapters focus on one aspect of life on Walden ranging from, the people of nearby Concord, to long poses on the wildlife and the sounds of nature.  It's a peaceful book that makes you yearn for a simpler time, but also makes you understand that a life of contentment isn't a period of time or a certain decade, but something that can be obtained anywhere at any time, whether you live in the country, or a town. Another thing that the book show's, is that, although so much has changed in technology and lifestyles, but people, at the core, haven't changed that much. We still have the same drives, we want to look after ourselves and our family's, we want to make money, have a house, a job. These things are the medians of the human experience, the simple wants of life... But just as people approached these wants the wrong way, we in the modern age still make these mistakes over 150 years on.

I don't believe that humanity will ever truly solve this problem that we have, if anything, it will probably get worse. What I do believe is that a growing number of individuals (Millennial's  like myself) are discovering this new/old way of living in which we remove all the periphery, and focus on evolving what we truly want, need, and desire for ourselves. It's become a bit of a cliche for a millennial to say "I'm going to (Insert far off country here) to 'find myself' ".  And although I would love to one day travel to all those far of countries, it didn't take travel, for me to find what I truly love to do. All it took was minimalism, Squarespace, and many hours of typing. I don't have a big house or a gas guzzling car, a high-powered job or a fancy degree ( yet! :) ). What I do have is a laptop, a room, and a hunger to live this life, my life, far removed from all the trinkets that create modern personhood. This Henry David Thoreau understood, and although society may never change, Individuals who hear the message of simplicity and minimalism always will.

Unjustified

A justification is an excuse, wrapped in a reason - Conor Mitchell

 Several months ago, while buying a rather expensive item, I found myself doing something that hadn't happened in a long time... I tried to justify something. It wasn't the money, the money was there, and I still had my emergency fund and my investments. No!, it was something within my head, a tick, an arcane annoyance that I believed had left my mind long ago. For some unknown reason, I found myself trying to justify my purchase. Now every time I buy something, I ask myself three important questions:

  • Is this thing going to bring me joy?
  • Is this thing going to serve a purpose?
  • Do I need this?

These questions aren't justifiable ones, to justify something is different. I've found that to justify, is to find a reason for why you shouldn't do something, but you do it anyway. I could hear those old voices in my head, saying things like "You deserve this!". Of course, I don't deserve it, I don't 'deserve' anything in life, and because I lack this 'deserving' attitude, I need not justify anything I buy, or, to a more limited degree, do. that's my new way of living, and I sure as hell wasn't going to start old habits. I quickly snapped out of this state of stupefaction and reminded myself of this golden rule I mention above.

The three questions above are the opposite to a justification. They are the opposite because I don't answer them all at the same time, I instead take a couple of day's if it's fairly cheap, two weeks if it's over £100, and a month if it's over £300. A justification can be made in a split second, and often leads to such remarks as "I deserve this". "I work hard". You may indeed work hard, but you never 'deserve' anything. You never hear people saying "I deserve food" or "I deserve heat" (not the film :) ) But apparently that 4K TV is something you deserve ?. "I deserve this", is the biggest and worst justification in humanity.

So next time you're trying to convince yourself into buying something, remind yourself of the golden rule, and then ask the three questions I've listed above. I've found that only through asking myself these deceptively simple questions have I been able to curb spending. I still buy things, nice things. I simply don't own too much of anything, I own all I need, or what I find value in. Many would think that £400 for any one thing would be scandalous, but for me, it's a reasonable purchase for me to indulge in one of my passions. Just something to think about guy's, don't justify, just be intentional, contentment will follow.

Bad faith, consumerism, and choices

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. - Jean-Paul Satre

In the philosophy of Existentialism, there is a concept known as 'bad faith'. Coined by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Satre, 'bad faith' is described as an individual who refuses to accept that he is a free being, by relinquishing his freedom/responsibility. Although external features can limit your ability to act, there is always a choice. Unfortunately now more than ever, people are losing knowledge of, and interest in, the concept of 'bad faith', a world where everything exists within a label, Satre's idea of hell.       

This absence of 'Bad faith' has been fed on by modern consumerism. I myself have fallen for it. I believed that by owning a specific brand of clothing it would make me more attractive, ignoring the idea of improving my body through eating better and exercising. That a new, bigger TV would improve the experience of my free time, forgetting all the better ways I could spend my time. these were lies, lies that I accepted willingly, because it was simpler to accept that this was what life was. Lie's that I can no longer accept as a part of my lifestyle. 

It is far too simple to fall into 'bad faith', it's easy to take the easiest road to travel, to allow yourself to believe that you are a fixed thing, a label, something easily understood, but humans are not like that. It is a harder path to roam, but a more fulfilling one, to choose to choose. Realise that you are not your Levi jeans or your BMW, you are capable of anything, but not everything, we must choose who we want to be constantly, a never ending cycle of choices, founded by a need to truly be yourself, to be authentic. It's a worthy goal, but, let's not forget, it involves a choice, the rest is up to you.

     

Social media detox

  

Although useful, social media is vapid and allows our worst self to reign - Conor Mitchell

Can anyone truly doubt the effect social media has had on all our life?. A single tweet has made and broken people. That embarrassing facebook pic lost you that dream job. In a world that has taking Andy Warhol's famous words "everyone shall have their 15 minutes of fame" to heart, it's difficult to cut yourself off from the thrill of a retweet, or that like from some internet star, the feeling of accomplishment when all the 140 characters fall seamlessly into place, it's addicting. As a blogger, this fact is not lost on me, but social media has started to show it's darker side. People now rate their self-worth in terms of comments and likes, the more the better, it, combined with an obvious inability to deal with critics ( or as our blame culture has taken to calling them, 'trolls') has lead to cases of suicide!

At the start of May, I gave myself the challenge of avoiding social media for a month. This stemmed from a realisation that although I enjoy Twitter, I was spending far to much time doing my Twitter thang. So how did I plan on doing this exactly? well firstly, I removed every single social media app of my phone ( Twitter, Instagram, Facebook ) I then preceded to un-bookmark all of the social media tabs on my Macbook. Just for full disclosure, I deactivated my Facebook account ( and remains so ) but kept the Facebook messenger app. By doing this, I avoid wasting time scrolling pictures of people passing their driving test, and instead, intentionally choose whom I want to talk to. Now that the groundwork had been laid, it was now time to get on with the challenge and my findings.

Three days in, I had failed, but, I did learn something... Not many people actually speak to me. It sounds sad but I think out of the 40 friends I have on facebook, I speak to maybe five regularly! I just don't talk that much on Facebook, so, as I explained above, I deactivated my account, but kept messenger for those lucky five people :). I also feel that social media, or the way we use social media, is cheapening what friendship means. I had people on Facebook that were never friends of mine, and haven't spoken to them in the best part of a decade! perhaps this is cruel, but these people add nothing to my life, although I'm very happy to see certain people, people who were my best friends in high school, doing well, the majority are simply people who were, but no longer are, acquaintances.

My third finding comes from my favourite social media platform, Twitter. No other platform has allowed people from all over the world to argue about what colour a dress is!. Twitter has created what I like to refer to as 'conspicuous opinion', or opinion without though or even knowledge. I'm very active in British politics and am no stranger to a twitter argument, but 140 characters does not a debate make!. most but not all of these mini arguments, end in petty one-upmanship and pathetic Ad Hominem attacks. This will not stop me sharing my political views, no matter how unpopular they might be with 'popular socialism', this is my right, although some have forgotten that free speech includes other opinions. What I have mostly stopped is replying to people who obviously aren't capable of a coherent conversation.

My fourth and final finding comes from Instagram and something I call the 'filter fallacy'. We all enjoy a picture of a sunset as it bathes a tropical shore in a shimmering orange light, but spend to much time looking at pics like this and you could end up worse off mentally. When it seems like everyone else is doing so great in their careers, or traveling the world, it's easy to feel inadequate. This is the 'filter fallacy', the belief that someone's Instagram, accurately portrays their life. Whenever I get this feeling, I simply remind myself that all 7.4 billion of us, are missing out on 99.999% of what's happening in the world. Life isn't a snapshot, it's a film strip and like any film, it has it's low points, it's highs, it's standout moment, and it's eventual climax. If you're like me and think that our life is not predestined and that our lives are simply a selection of choices that we make, then there is nothing stopping you from creating a standout moment today, and guess what? you don't even need to take a pic and filter it. Real life needs no filter.

 

The three 'ISM'S' that changed my life

Only the educated are free- Epictetus

My life for the past two and half years has revolved around three 'Ism's'. These three 'ism's' are Stoicism, Minimalism, and existentialism. These three philosophies have changed my life massively and today I would like to outline them.

Stoicism

Stoicism is a discipline that teaches self-control above all. Believed to have been created by the teacher Zeno in the third century BC, but many of the famed Stoics came around in the late history of Stoicism like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epicurious. The basic fundamentals of stoicism is, as I said above, is self-control. Learning the ability to control the passionate and desirous parts of our brains. Once these lower values are under control, you can now focus on the most important value… rationality. The word stoic has gotten a bad rep for quite a while. ‘Stoic’ seems to be a bad word for someone who doesn’t feel pain and has a limited propensity for pleasure. This accusation isn’t necessarily wrong; a stoic know’s that life is going to happen, the good and bad. It matters not when the event happens, only how you deal with it when it comes. Stoicism has cleared my mind and made my life more directed towards what I truly want.

Existentialism

I value my individuality over anything else and this belief has penetrated my philosophical beliefs, as well as my political ones. Am an atheist and therefore believe that humanity is not the ‘chosen people’ created by some omnipresent, omnipotent being. Many find that This idea that as individuals are alone very depression. I, however, find it empowering, knowing that my life isn’t predestined. I will live for a certain amount of time, then I shall die, that’s it!. Between those periods is called life and I plan on making it whatever I choose it to be. If I make mistakes then I shall have to own them, as I can’t blame them on anyone or any unobservable being. Existentialism makes you question the meaning of your own life, something that I personally believe is a necessity for every human being, although so few ever do it. If you want to learn more about existentialism I recommend reading the following:

  • Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Essays and Aphorisms by Arthur Schopenhauer
  • The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
  • Anything by John Paul Sartre (except his later socialist writings, that makes no sense)

Minimalism

Minimalism was the precursor to the two 'Ism’s' above. I discovered Minimalism at the lowest point in my life. I built myself back up through the teachings of Minimalism. I removed the superfluous stuff from my life in order to find what I truly love to do. It is Minimalism that made me go to university, Minimalism helped me find Stoicism and perhaps most importantly of all, I found my love of writing and in extension, this blog. I found Minimalism through the ‘The Minimalists’, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Their story of growing up poor, becoming successful, and then releasing that all the things that came with success were not what they wanted. After several successive low points in Millburn’s life (much like my depression) he set about changing his life, pairing down all the trappings of success and finally leaving a job he hated. His friend since school, Ryan, impressed by how different Millburn seemed, followed him into minimalism. Both have gone on to inspire me and millions of others through their blog, three books, and speaking tours all over the world. I owe so much to these guys. They not only changed my life but gave my the ability to fully form it.