Jim Carrey: “So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.”

Who doesn’t love themselves a good graduation speech? Like an inspiring sermon, sans the sometimes awkwardness of religion, plus more ceremony and uplift. You get to hear a thoughtful person tell you the best stories and lessons of their life, in the most punchy and succinct way they can manage.

Among my favorites are David Brooks’s at Dartmouth on the importance of commitments, George Saunders’s at Syracuse on the failures of kindness, and I can’t leave out David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College: “This is water. This is water.”

To that list I’ve now added Jim Carrey at Maharishi. The speech is like a medley of his greatest acting hits: profound, personal, peculiar, and very funny.

Here are some of my favorite bits:

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.

My father used to brag that I wasn’t a ham — I was the whole pig. And he treated my talent as if it was his second chance. When I was about 28, after a decade as a professional comedian, I realized one night in LA that the purpose of my life had always been to free people from concern, like my dad. When I realized this, I dubbed my new devotion, “The Church of Freedom From Concern” — “The Church of FFC”— and I dedicated myself to that ministry.

You can join the game, fight the wars, play with form all you want, but to find real peace, you have to let the armor fall. Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world.

I’ve often said that I wished people could realize all their dreams of wealth and fame so they could see that it’s not where you’ll find your sense of completion.

No matter what you gain, ego will not let you rest. It will tell you that you cannot stop until you’ve left an indelible mark on the earth, until you’ve achieved immortality. How tricky is the ego that it would tempt us with the promise of something we already possess.

Daily Habits Checklist (October 3 – 16)

Daily Habits Checklist October 3 - 16

If you’d like to start your own checklist, here’s a simple template. You’ll notice that I use a green letter x in addition to a green colored cell because, from what I know, you need some content inside a cell to “count it” in Google docs. Hope it’s helpful. If you change it, improve it, personalize it, let me know, I’d love to see.

Notes for these 2 weeks:

  • Overall, a solid cycle. Both weeks surpassed my 80% goal. But I still drink too much. Most major slips, if not due to travel, are due to alcohol. The hangovers. The hangovers.
  • for October’s Giving Habit, I donated to Dan Carlin and to Coin Center. I’m an active listener of Dan Carlin’s podcasts Hardcore History and Common Sense, and a big supporter of bitcoin as a technology to democratize finance and increase innovation in money
  • My evening routine now looks like: tidy the house, wash the dishes, choose tomorrow’s outfit, and write tomorrow’s goals. This doesn’t include existing habits like flossing and reading. I’m testing whether a more purposeful, planned pre-sleep routine will increase my ability to wind down from the day, decrease time-to-sleep, and improve sleep quality
  • I removed the daily habit of “publish something”. Usually this means a blog post. For some time now this hasn’t seemed the right metric to measure my content production. Instead, I’d like to write longer, deeper, less frequent content
  • Meditating for 15 minutes a day, despite being just a five minute increase from the old goal of 10 minutes, has been harder to sustain than a larger bump in daily writing time, from 1.5 hours to 2 hours. Perhaps not surprising that relative time matters as much as absolute time, in the same way that an hour with a loved one feels like minutes and a two minute sprint feels like hours. Meditation is flat out hard. No way around it. But the effect is enormous, too. At this point it’s almost a cliche to say how powerful the practice can be, but after 3 years of experience, my faith has only grown

Thanks for reading! Here’s an explanation of how and why I track my daily habits. And here’s a starter template if you’d like to create your own.

What habits do you monitor? Which habits would you like to develop? Email me anytime.

Bad memory? Join the club. Here’s how I use Anki to ensure I won’t forget

We feel guilty for all that we have not yet read, but overlook how much better read we already are than Augustine or Dante, thereby ignoring that our problem lies squarely with our manner of absorption rather than with the extent of our consumption. – Alain de Botton

Frustrated with how much information I continually forget, I began to invest time a few years ago into memorizing the most interesting stuff I came across: quotes, facts, trends, even singing tips.

It’s been a game changer, a small but valuable part of my daily routine.

I use Anki, a type of spaced repetition software. Humans forget things on a fairly predictable schedule, and Anki uses that schedule to remind you right when you’re about to forget. Like a nagging spouse with perfect timing. The reminders grow less frequent over time, as your memory of an item improves.

Here are some screenshots of Anki’s desktop app in use (I use the mobile app more):

Anki memorization 1

The above is the main dashboard. It shows how many cards I have in my deck (2007) and how many cards I review each day: on average, 67.

Anki memorization 2

The above is an example quote I try to memorize. Along with quotes, I’ll create question-and-answer cards, true/false cards, fill in the ______ cards.

Anki memorization 3

…and the full quote. You give yourself a grade (fail, hard, good, easy). And continue reviewing.

There are many versions of Anki SRS. I use AnkiApp. It’s good enough, but if you know a better app, please share!

After using Anki for years, I’ve noticed that it’s changed my approach to learning new information. I now divide every new piece of knowledge into three categories. Category one is “do nothing with it”. Which means I will pretty much forget it. Category two is “save it”, usually into Evernote. Category three is “remember it”, which means I create a card in Anki.

If you have a poor memory and it frustrates you to no end, give Anki a shot. I’m here if you want to chat!

PS. I debated sharing my cards but they’re so eclectic and obscure that it’s probably a distraction…

Why life is a JUGGLING act not a balancing act

“I think it’s about juggling. The juggling metaphor is a lot more apt. One of the things about juggling is that you’ve got to keep your eye on all the balls. A second thing about juggling is each time you touch something you have to give it energy. You’ve got to throw it up in the air so that it takes care of itself while you’re working on the others. You’ve also got to throw the balls thoughtfully and carefully. That requires a lot of practice. The third thing about juggling, though, is you’ve got to catch the falling ball. The most important ball is the one that’s about to hit the ground.” – Howard Stevenson

From a meeting between Harvard’s divinity school and business school:

Happiness, that moment before you need more happiness

Happiness...is the moment before you need more happiness

Happiness…is the moment before you need more happiness – Don Draper

Whatever you might think of Draper, the dude is right. Happiness is a drug.

Society tells us to pursue happiness. I can’t think of a more universally accepted compass for decision making, for how to go about your day. Do what makes you happy. Are you happy. She’s not happy. And on and on. Heck it’s even in our Declaration of Independence!

But chasing happiness is the very route to sealing your own misery. Like trying to get rich by playing blackjack in Vegas: the more you play, the more you’ll eventually lose.

“The key to being happy isn’t a search for meaning. It’s just to keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually, you’ll be dead.” – Mr. Peanut Butter in the show Bojack Horseman

Of course being happy feels great. But doesn’t molly feel great too?

Like molly, happy doesn’t last. Like molly, when the happy stops, you miss it. You develop a craving for it.

That’s called withdrawal.

With repeated use, you need more happy to get back to your previous highs. The same amount isn’t enough.

That’s called tolerance.

Hitting the snooze button makes you happy. Waking up at 6am to exercise does not.

Eating a donut makes you happy. Snacking on an apple does not.

Drinking that fifth beer makes you happy. Staying home to build your side project does not.

Reading a gossip magazine on the beach makes you happy. Slogging through a Dickens novel does not.

Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively. After a short time, a very short time, there would be little that one really enjoyed. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Now of course we are talking about a particular sort of happiness. There are other sorts: Long-term happiness. A happy that is synonymous with content or fulfilled.

But today, when I refer to happiness I mean the short-lived one. The happiness that acts and feels and walks and talks a lot like a drug.

We see it as a goal. A worthy pursuit. But in reality, it’s a byproduct. A side effect.

Happiness is the byproduct of losing weight after eating healthy meals and fewer calories for months.

Happiness is the side effect of finishing the novel that’s sat on your nightstand for months.

Happiness is the result of helping your daughter with her math homework for months and seeing her finally “get” long division.

Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy ourselves from time to time. Eat that double cheeseburger on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Watch Friends reruns after a long day at work.

But as a strategy, a system for approaching life, maximizing happiness is just maximizing dissatisfaction.

Real happiness is a butterfly. Chase her and only one of two things will happen: she’ll run away, or you’ll hurt her. So ignore the butterfly. Get back to work, on yourself, and especially on others. And eventually, she’ll sneak up and land on you.

I’m writing a book on how to lead a habit driven life. This is a working excerpt. Thanks for reading!