Daily Habits Checklist (August 8th – September 3rd): “We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go.”

Haven’t posted much lately. I’ve been hard at work on a new media project, and I hope to have something to show you in two weeks if not sooner. But I should be writing more. Like exercise, writing has its obvious benefits, but there are many more subtle and second-order rewards as well. So I miss it, and I feel that something is missing in my bones, in the strength and fullness of my day. How to work it back in?

These past 4 weeks were good, not great. A great month would be 2-3 weeks of 80%+. Excuses include: the emergence of a new project and the arrival of a puppy. My most inconsistent habits were meditation and music. And I expect that my music habit will suffer most in the coming weeks, since it’s the hardest challenge and the easiest to find excuses not to do.

Here’s why and how I track my daily habits.

We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it. – Rainer Maria Rilke

Thanks for reading!

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

Your Personal Bible: making a handbook of your most treasured text

Since publishing the below post I’ve finished and shared mine publicly. You can read about and download the file here

Your Personal Bible

I’ve come to really value the process of reading the same content over and over and over, until I feel that I know it inside and out like a favorite song or an old sweatshirt. It’s a habit I’ve grown to enjoy and I think it has many uses. Today I want to take the concept a step further and share the idea of building your own Personal Bible.

The Judeo-Christian Bible, from my perspective, is a set of stories and lessons that have not only survived but thrived for millenia. It is both a historical document (who, what, when, where) and a doctrinal one (how you should live, and why). Believers read the Bible weekly if not daily, both silently and out loud, in private and within groups. For many centuries, the Bible was a growing, changing document to which its authors added and removed, edited and curated.

A few weeks ago I began to build my own such “bible”, by collecting my favorite texts from blog posts, books, poems, notes, and the like. (I mean no offense to Christians or anyone who may be put off by a perceived misuse of the word)

My goal for this Personal Bible is to have a handbook of the most inspiring, powerful, and interesting content I’ve experienced. Something I can read every day or as often as possible, a resource I can turn to when facing important decisions or tough emotional times. Together, they represent the ideas and beliefs and insights that I want to remember forever, concepts that I want to become a concrete part of my daily life.

Here are some examples of content that I’ve included in mine:

  • Richard Hamming: You and Your Research [link]
  • Paul Graham: How to do what you love [link]
  • David Brooks: The Heart Grows Smarter [link]
  • Paul Buchheit: Applied Philosophy, a.k.a. “Hacking” [link]
  • Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power [Kindle]
  • Steve Pavlina: Broadcast Your Desires [link]
  • 38 insights from Alain de Botton [link]
  • The Scott Adams happiness formula [link]
  • Jiro and Rene Redzepi have a cup of tea [link]
  • Derek Sivers: Hell Yeah or No [link]
  • Patrick McKenzie: Don’t End The Week With Nothing [link]
  • George Saunders advice to graduates [link]
  • Jure Robic and “That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stranger” [link]
  • The BVP Anti-Portfolio [link]

When I struggle to commit to a project or path, I read about Jure Robic and how he pushes his mind to near insanity. When I want to be more effective with my time and efforts, I read Richard Hamming’s advice on how to do great work. And so on.

(please note: for most of the above content, I do not include the full text in my bible, but rather my notes and select quotes and excerpts that I pull from the pieces)

And within this document I also include a few of my favorite poems, such as:

The Man Watching by Rainer Maria Rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time, and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great.
If only we would let ourselves be dominated as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined to fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

Alain de Botton said something like, we are already far better read than the great Greek philosophers of old, yet we are still think we’re not well-read enough. We hunger for the new. Instead, why not spend our limited time to really understand and know deep within our soul the great stuff we’ve already enjoyed?

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

October quotes: “In the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits. For the last 30 years of your life, your habits make you.” – Hindu saying

Alright Jack Donaghy, follow your heart: Hard Equations and Rational Thinking – Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy in 30 Rock

No rigid rules or systems for figuring out “what to do when” can work effectively for more than a few weeks before becoming obsolete – Cal Newport

“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

If you would like to know how to recognize a prophet, look to him who gives you the knowledge of your own heart. – Persian saying

In the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits. For the last 30 years of your life, your habits make you. — Hindu saying that Steve Jobs was fond of (as read in Appletopia)

Old pond…
A frog leaps in
Water’s sound
-Matsuo Basho

Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
—John Donne

I’m like my mother: I stereotype, it’s faster. — George Clooney, Up in the Air

Knowledge is limitless. Therefore, there is a minuscule difference between those who know a lot and those who know very little. — Leo Tolstoy

It is time to leave our comfortable rooms, every corner of which we know, and venture forth into eternity — Rilke

when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create. — Why the lucky stiff

Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. ― Rainer Maria Rilke.

Make the body capable of doing many things. This will help you to perfect the mind and so to come to the intellectual love of God. – Spinoza, paraphrased by Huxley in The Island

As Balzac says, there goes another novel — Woody Allen in Annie Hall

…to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. — Victor Frankl

We have one party with two wings which represents 4% of the population — Gore Vidal

For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm. There are not many such books. All the rest is either topical trash or what some call Literature of Ideas, which very often is topical trash coming in huge blocks of plaster that are carefully transmitted from age to age until somebody comes along with a hammer and takes a good crack at Balzac, at Gorki, at Mann. — Vladimir Nabokov

Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books.

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. — George Orwell

Here is an ongoing collection of my favorite quotes.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

Random quotes: “It doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster” – Greg Lemond

A particularly fertile month, quotes-wise. I was in a Rilke reading binge…what a writer.

When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things. – Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

After innumerable times hearing some friend or writer praise this book, I finally began to read it. They were right.

Every good anime just has to have a sword that defies the laws of mass – Ben on YT, re: Rurouni Kenshin

Great anime. Attack on Titan is another great one, and a wildly creative concept.

I have three treasures I cherish and hold dear: the first is love, the second is moderation, the third is humility. With love one is fearless. With moderation one is abundant. With humility one can fill the highest position. – 道德经

Reading the Tao Te Ching fills me with peace.

To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically. – Henry David Thoreau

Philosophy should be a set of tools and paths to understanding how to live. We have moved far away from that, just as we have moved far away from seeing food as a way to nourish the body.

The Internet allows any two individuals to transfer data without permission from any central authority. Bitcoin does the same for value – Naval Ravikant

Chris Dixon said: you should pay attention to where “smart energy” is moving. Naval is that, personified.

It doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster – Greg Lemond

Hat tip to Patrick Collison.

Moore’s Law is really about people’s belief system, it’s not a law of physics, it’s about human belief, and when people believe in something, they’ll put energy behind it to make it come to pass. – Kevin Kelly

From What Technology Wants…a book that is re-organizing how I think about technology, its evolution and its role in society. I’d like to have a long chat with Kevin someday.

There might be tens of thousands of people who conceive the possibility of the same invention at the same time.
But less than one in ten of them imagines how it might be done.
Of these who see how to do it, only one in ten will actually think through the practical details and specific solutions.
Of these only one in ten will actually get the design to work for very long.
And finally, usually only one of all those many thousands with the idea will get the invention to stick in the culture.
-Danny Hillis via What Technology Wants

The book is filled with gems as the above.

In physical talents he was a pauper when he started; by grace of his intellect he is incomparably the richest of all the animals now. But he is still a pauper in morals — incomparably the poorest of the creatures in that respect. The gods value morals alone; they have paid no compliments to intellect, nor offered it a single reward. If intellect is welcome anywhere in the other world, it is in hell, not heaven. – Mark Twain

The power of great writers: what they say may not be true, but how they say it is so beautiful that you are compelled to believe.

And the rest is Rilke, sans commentary:

For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
which we are barely able to endure, and it amazes us so,
because it serenely disdains to destroy us.
Every angel is terrible.
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies

The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you. – Rainer Maria Rilke

We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it. – Rainer Maria Rilke

what do the contours of your body mean,
laid out like the lines on a hand,
so that I no longer see them except as fate?
-Rainer Maria Rilke in Requiem for a Friend

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

The Man Watching

Thanks to Tim O’Reilly.

The Man Watching

Rainer Maria Rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler’s sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.