More Simplicity for More Sanity

Posted by in Philosophy

Since I do my reviews quarterly, transitioning into 2016 isn’t much different for me from going from Q3 to Q4 from a review and planning standpoint. I don’t review all of 2015, and I don’t plan for all of 2016, but it does feel different from the other quarters.

Probably since quarterly planning is new this last year for me, I still have the habit of thinking in yearly reflections and goals.

So since it feels different, and if I were to write up a quarterly review each quarter, that might get repetitive, I figure I’ll write up something about my reflections on 2015 and transitioning into this first quarter of 2016.

Sidetone: If you’re interested in what my quarterly reviews and planning look like, you should check out Taylor Pearson’s post on quarterly planning here. Mine is very similar to that. Mostly because I’ve just taken a lot of stuff from Taylor over the last year or so.

My Priorities Shifted in 2015

2015 was a big year for me. I worked a lot, traveled a bit less than 2014, but laid a pretty good foundation going into this next year.

It was my first full year of not having my own place. For the majority of the year, I lived in a Hacker House in Seattle. This was a bunk bed set up where the number of residents varied week to week. Sometimes I had my own room, and sometimes I had to share it with three other people.

The typical people who’d come in and out were people doing internships at local companies, people visiting for a coding boot camp, or just local people like me who didn’t want a lease.

It wasn’t supposed to be such a long time there, but it ended up being an awesome setup for me. I was living in a fun neighborhood and was about six blocks away from my girlfriend. I ended up meeting a ton of interesting people and came away with a close friend. I was also introduced to Ethiopian food, which I proceeded to eat about once a week over the last year.

It also has had a weird lasting effect on my perception of how people live. Sometimes I forget how living with barely anything and not having my own space for so long has made my thinking very different from other people’s. I don’t want to be mistaken as saying my thinking is better or worse. It’s simply different.

For example, looking at this next year, I tell my girlfriend that we can travel a lot and live in Airbnb’s, with relatives or friends, and house sit (check out this site for house sitting). When saying this, I’m exciting and typically don’t realize this is an entirely foreign concept for most people. Not having a lease or mortgage is different from the majority of American’s my age, which I sometimes forget.

This concept of “my space” isn’t something I’ve completely lost or consciously try to disassociate with, it has just moved down the priority list for me. I didn’t plan for it to, but when your housing for the last year looks like this, your perception starts to change:

Summer of 2014 in Rio de Janeiro:
– Live with 12 people in an apartment
– Live in a favela in a tiny room with bunk beds with my friend
– Live in a one bedroom apartment with my friend (with a mattress in the living room, which is the only room besides the bedroom)

Fall of 2014 in Seattle:
– Hacker House with 3 to 10 people

Winter of 2014 in Spain:
– Various Airbnb’s

Spring to fall of 2015 in Seattle
– Hacker House again

Fall to Winter of 2015 in Seattle
– Share a bedroom with Cory in an apartment
– Random month of travel in hotels / Airbnb’s / My girlfriend’s parents’ house

I haven’t had my own space since I move out of my apartment in May of 2014, and this past time just flew by.

It’s made me less aware of needing my own space, although I do think about it. It’s not that I’ve lost the need, it’s just that it’s moved down the priority ladder. So looking back on 2015 and going into 2016, I’m still not sure of when or where or if I’ll get my own space. It has become a lower priority compared to what location I’m in and the freedom it allows me.

Who knows, I may end up getting an apartment in Seattle this spring. But then I would figure out how to master Airbnb so I can always rent it out when I want to keep traveling.

You Can’t Have Stuff if You don’t Have Space

One of the key factors of why I’ve been able to not have my own space is that I don’t own much stuff. I think by most people’s standards, I’d be a minimalist. When I moved to Rio, I sold almost everything I owned. Recently when closing up things in Seattle, I reduced what I own to even less. Probably the least amount I’ve ever had.

I spent all of 2015 probably owning right around 100 things. I never counted because the number isn’t important.

So 2015 was the year of less. Which I think was important for me. I think paring down stuff, and possibly crossing the line of being comfortable, is teaching me what is actually important.

I didn’t mind sleeping in bunk beds in Seattle or only owning five shirts if it meant I had freedom, living in the location of my choosing, and got to meet exciting people. The equation “Freedom > Stuff” has been leading a lot of my decisions over the last couple years.


When do I Feel the Healthiest and When don’t I?

Every quarter, I evaluate my emotional health. At what point in time am I the happiest and healthiest? And the flip side, at what point in time am I the least emotionally healthy?

When reflecting on this, I realized that I feel best when I have a balance of routine and adventure. This summer was awesome, as I was in a great routine in Seattle, but was doing something fun almost every weekend.

The routine is important to me. It’s how I make sure I have no “zero-days”. A zero-day is when I do nothing to move towards my goals. With a routine, I can make sure I get at least 1% better each day. It’s an investment that compounds over time.

When did I feel least healthy? Two key things came up when I was thinking of when I felt my worse this last year. The first is excessive drinking.

I don’t like who I am when I’m drunk. I become aggressive in conversation (not fighting aggressive, but blunter, less fun to be around), and I make poor decisions, as most people do when drunk.

As someone who strives to be 1% better each day, whether that’s with work, health, or my personal character, I feel like getting drunk knocks me back in each one of those areas. I become less responsible, less fun, and definitely less healthy.

So for 2016, I’m going to cut down my drinking. I have no problem with a couple of drinks or a glass of wine with dinner. It’s just when the drink tally gets around four that things start to get worse. I’m sure I will end up drunk at some points in 2016, but it’s going to be very selective because I better understand the sacrifices I make for one night of partying. Most times I wake up realizing those sacrifices weren’t worth the night.

The second thing that makes me feel unhealthy is mindless social media. Social media is a tool, and I’m trying to be better at using it.

I love social media because it allows me to connect with amazing people. It allows me to stay in touch with everyone I’ve met. It allows me to share my thoughts on this blog, as most of our traffic comes from Facebook.

There are tons of reasons why social media is a useful tool to use, but if you’re not conscious of it, it can wreack havoc on your emotional health.

At its worse, social media is this weird formula of a company wanting you never to leave their site and the users wanting everything they post to be their best selves. This means you’re sucked into looking at how much you’re missing out on.

If you’re scrolling through Facebook, chances are you’re not doing anything cool at that moment. However, you’re looking at pictures of people doing cool stuff. You’re bound not to feel good about yourself.

When it affected me most was when I would mindlessly scroll through Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook when I was relaxing, like watching a movie.

Although this was supposed to be a relaxing, rejuvenating time, I would feel anxious. Everyone in my newsfeed is posting cool things, and I’m half-assing watching a movie. It is a recipe for stress, which was against the entire purpose of sitting down to watch the movie in the first place.

Another example where social media has made me feel less healthy is Instagram. Although I am a big fan of Instagram, it has shaped the way I look at moments in my life for the worse.

Instead of fully enjoying a funny, beautiful, or inspiring moment, part of my brain is focused on “should I put this on Instagram?”, then followed with the next question, “How many likes would it get?”

I don’t want to think like this. We only have so many moments to enjoy in one lifetime, and I don’t want to waste those on thinking about superficial things like Instagram likes.

I thought Instagram was important for personal branding and making connections until I got two months into writing this blog. One intelligent blog post sent out on Facebook and Twitter is worth 10x any Instagram post.

So this means in 2016 I’ll be drinking less and limiting my time on social media. You may see that I still post articles almost daily, but I’m using Buffer to do so to avoid logging on. I still respond to comments and enjoy conversations on Facebook because I have Hootsuite set up.I will still log into Facebook, but it’s going to be in batches. I’ll check at lunch and the end of the day. That will be it. No evening time, and especially not when I’m supposed to be relaxing.

To pull this off, I’m not just relying on my self-discipline and willpower. While I feel like I am a pretty disciplined person, I don’t want to rely on that. I’ve seen it fail many times in the past. What I’m doing is setting up safety nets. For example, I have deleted all social media from my phone.


I am happiest when I’m disconnected and as present as possible.

Nothing in my business is an emergency, and rarely does anyone contact me for time sensitive stuff, so I’ll be keeping my phone on airplane mode more and leave it behind as much as possible. This will allow me to be more present with the people I am with and whatever activity I’m doing. Also, it helps that the only people who text me regularly are my mom, my girlfriend, and Cory.

More Simplicity for More Sanity

Reflecting on my life every quarter allows me to learn more about myself. I took hours to do this last evaluation and was able to walk away with some insights to make this next quarter better.

Make things simple. I only have three goals for this next quarter. One of which is just to write more. At least one post every other week, but continuously brainstorming, exploring new ideas, refining my writing, and editing (which if you’ve read my past posts, you may notice I don’t spend enough time doing).

The other two are revenue goals for my e-commerce business and investment portfolio. That’s it as far as goals I focus on.

I’m going to simplify my communication. If you need me, email is the best way to get in touch (casey [@] I’m going to be on social media less; I’m going to be on my phone less. If you’ve been arrested and get one phone call, I’m probably not your best bet.

All this simplification will allow me to double down on friendships and focusing on the people I’m around. I still love to keep in touch with my friends that are in different cities, but it’ll mostly be through email or visiting them.

Am I going to be 100% successful? No. But it’ll be better than it was last quarter. Becoming aware of where I feel healthiest is the first step. Now it’s about setting up my life to allow more of that into it.

The more I learn, the more I see simplicity as the answer.

Simplicity and narrowing focus keep coming up in my life. It is most likely confirmation bias that I’m thinking about it, so I see it more. However, I do notice it’s coming from smart people.

This last month I was listening to Tim Ferris’ podcast with Derek Sivers and was reading Derek’s book Anything You Want, and it enforced the power of simplicity for me.

In the interview with Tim, Derek talks about how everyone thinks that because he is so successful, he must be extremely busy. His answer to that is, no. He’s actually not busy at all. He has tons of free time.

How is this so? It’s because of his “Hell Yeah” rule. When he gets asked to do something, if his initial reaction isn’t “Hell Yeah,” then it’s a no.

Think about that. How often do you get asked to do something where your initial reaction is a maybe, then you spend a lot of time thinking about it and perhaps talk yourself into doing something you don’t like to do.

An exception to this is when starting out in your career. Then you should say yes to a lot of things. You have to earn the right to get the point where you can use the “hell yeah” rule.

Derek has figured out what makes him happy and fulfilled. He likes to read, write, play music, and give talks. If you ask him to do anything outside of those, it has to knock his socks off to get him to change his schedule.

Simplicity. Evaluate what makes you feel happiest and healthiest and start trimming back your life as much as possible to stay in those activities as much as possible.

Another example is Steven Kolter. He’s the author of The Rise of Superman and is the leading authority right now on Flow States tk. In a survey, people who were the happiest and most fulfilled are the people who get into flow the most. So I would then say Steven is a leading authority on fulfillment.

Steven has figured out what triggers flow, and more specifically what triggers flow for him. So his activities in life are writing, running with his dogs, and skiing. That’s about it. He gets into flow with those and lives an extraordinarily simple, but happy lifestyle.

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated – Confucius

So these are my general conclusions from the last year, and things I’m trying to alter going into this next quarter.

Simplify and double down on what makes me a better person. Avoid the things that make me a worse person.

I’ll be reevaluating next quarter since I don’t set yearly goals or do yearly reviews. I am hopeful then that I’ll have even more insights and can move things forward just a little bit more.

Let me know what you think about my “resolutions” and if you got any you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.