That’s it. These three simple words are the summary of a slow revolution that’s been happening for the past decade.
Originally referring to computer code that simplified one’s life, “hack” now refers to just about any simpler solution to a seemingly more complex problem. Often times these hacks are not obvious because they require thinking in a way that others do not.
They used to call these things ‘inventions’ or ‘ideas’, but I admit ‘life hack’ sounds way cooler. In many ways this blog is a life-hack. It is my collection of ideas that make my life more efficient and optimized.
The vast majority of the ideas here are not mine; maybe a few are original. But, they are viewed through the lens of my experiences, values and personality which creates a unique perspective. Keep this in mind when you gather information.
The problem with this life-hack culture is we run the risk of ‘life-hacking for hacking sake’. We do not filter it through our own lens. It is possible to efficiently fill your day with life-hacks to the point of crippling inefficiency.
There is too much information available to us right now. Almost anything is knowable in an instant. Everything is always available. We are chronically tortured by paradox of choice. This is why you will find more philosophy here than in the standard 10 ways to get better at ‘X’ article. A smattering of tactical information is useful, but excess can become overwhelming. There is simply too much information available for the human mind to consume and process.
We are learning beyond our capacity to comprehend.
―Unknown. I got this from somewhere on the internet, wrote it down, and now can’t find it again…thanks Google.
Sometimes simpler is better.
Take the advice here deliberately slow. Start small and simple, and observe the effects on you. The human brain is a notoriously terrible recording device so I recommend keeping a short journal of your observations. We already decided this was a good idea for reading blogs. If you rely only on your memory you will expose the data to dozens of different cognitive biases.
The human mind is a delusion generator, not a window to truth.
― Scott Adams,
My Dive Into the Life Hack Pool:
When I read The 4-hour Body, the fantastic book by Tim Ferriss, which is basically a field manual on hacking the human body, I was initially intoxicated by the amount of information. There were so many ideas and methods for improving everything from strength to flexibility to libido to longevity. It would be awesome. Within a few months I would sculpt my body into a work of art and start my second career as an underwear model. I would be awesome. Everyone would be jealous of me and I would retool my retirement numbers on the assumption I would live a vigorous life to about 120 years old.
After about a week I realized this was probably not going to work out as I planned. I soon found myself overwhelmed by the sheer volume. If I acted on every great idea contained within, I would be spending all my time striving to accomplish perfection, and then probably feeling ashamed when I couldn’t possibly do it all*. What I really needed was a book on how to hack his book!
And what about all the cool stuff in the 20 other fantastic books, blogs and podcasts I consumed in the last month? I would spend all my time optimizing a life I had no time to actually live.
I could feel my blood pressure rising a bit.
There are probably 13 year old girls who likely have a bigger dead lift than me.** My diet, sleep and exercise regimens were not fantastic. I’ve probably ruined my life by not ever eating a Brazil nut, and I didn’t even want to know what my testosterone level was. I was developing optimization anxiety™. I sure hope there is an ICD-10 code for this because I want my insurance to cover the therapy I’m going to need!
Breath. Relax. Let go.
I finally settled down a bit. Maybe a
young strapping middle aged philosopher doesn’t need a 400lb dead lift. Do I really need to look great when I’m 100? Do I really need to look great now? Who am I trying to impress? Why not filter the book through my lens and take the 5 or 10 ideas that resonate with me, and experiment with them.
That’s exactly what I did:
- I experimented with my diet and had some incredible results.
- I designed a minimalist strength regimen that works for me.
- I improved my posture, all but eliminated back pain*** and am more flexible now than I was when I was 20.
- My sleep is improved.
- I have a Brazil nut every now and then, but to be honest I usually forget about them.
Life hacks are cool. They can improve your life tremendously, but they can consume you.
I say slow-hack through your own lens.
Enjoy the process as much as the results, and aim for results that are meaningful to your life. Savor the knowledge and willingness to change as much as the results of the change itself. Always ask the question ‘why?’ before you start a new hack.
The truth is, there is no master hack.
Just relax and change at your own pace.
*To be fair Tim wrote with great clarity on pages 10-13 how to use the book. I of course ignored his advice.
**After some research I found this is 176lbs which I think I can handle.
***Until I developed the worst pain I have ever experienced…blog post coming.