It is true – Rutger Bregman’s ‘Humankind’ is a hopeful, breath of fresh air especially at this day and age where cynicism and negativity are the mindsets we come across on a usual basis.
The book talks about how the emergence of farming, agriculture, and permanent settlement was the death of humanity’s best traits – trustworthiness, generosity, and kindness. Our brains have always been wired to be trusting, generous, and kind as these were the qualities that allowed our species to survive the nomadic life. In a big and unfamiliar world, we used to depend on other people regardless of their knowledge and intention because it is all what we had – each other.
Unfortunately, settling down permanently to acquire land and learn farming brought out the worst in us. It made us selfish and short-sighted as we only see the resources that are close to us. It made us doubtful of other people because we think they are out there to compete against in the hopes of acquiring more. It made us guarded, making us see only the worst in people because of our fear of not getting what we feel is rightfully ours.
These undesirable traits are what shaped modern civilization – the bedrock of democracy, capitalism, education, and religion. We use these to sow fear and contempt amongst people to make them cooperate because if we discover that humans are innately good and intrinsically motivated, things will run its course without the need for people to herd us to the ‘right’ path. The people who established these systems say they want to ‘discipline’ us and ‘curb our selfishness’, but in fact, they just want to get ahead of us by pitting us against each other. These so-called leaders won’t be able to run their agenda back when we were still living a nomadic life because they were considered outcasts and anyone displaying these selfish motives and traits were automatically penalized.
Bregman debunked a lot of respectable studies with historical facts and uncovered a handful of rigged scientific experiments that were considered revolutionary for centuries, like The Stanford Prison Experiment by Philip Zimbardo, the Broken Window Theory by James Wilson, as well as the real story behind Easter Island. These well-known studies have been faked by people who want to be recognized in their respective fields as they know that if they presented what REALLY happened, (read: people who actually acted kindly and nicely towards each other), it would not get picked up by respectable journals and prestigious media outlets.
These studies have been the basis of many successful institutions to justify why people should doubt each other. But this book uncovered, with real, hard facts, that people are born and hard-wired to be good. When we trust in humanity’s kindness and generosity, acts of goodness will snowball from there and can create true change in society as a whole.
Aside from inciting so many positive feelings and thoughts, Humankind is well written it makes such an easy read even if it uses a lot of scientific evidences to prove a point. This book is a light at the end of this seemingly never-ending tunnel that we have been living in, allowing us to see hope amidst a world that continues to be built around pessimism.
Despite being released way back in 1992, Neil Postman’s Technopoly has accurately and chillingly predicted the dire effects of mismanaged influx of information brought about by the exponential growth of technology.
While tech has paved the way for people to realize that the world can and should be better, it has become totalitarian due to its lack of management and regulation. It has invisibly taken over our lives, altering what used to be true in religion, politics, art, history — basically in all facets of culture.
Humans have become too dependent on technology that we’ve come to lose our trust in ourselves. All information, theories, and philosophies brought about by centuries of technological development have made us believe that we are imperfect and fallible – the exact opposite of what tech is, which is dependable, predictable, and measurable.
Tech is designed to continuously unearth myriads of information that will overwhelm us, while humans are trying to catch up in comprehending the purpose of these data. The book asserts that information, without regulation, can be lethal. Until governments and institutions find effective and lightning-fast ways to come up with these policies, it is up to us as individuals to be more discerning and critical of information made available to us.
Human intelligence, unlike AI, is multidimensional and nontransferable. We have a unique, biologically-rooted, and intangible mental life that machines can never duplicate as these are driven by feelings and ideas. This unique facet is what drives creativity, judgment, and connection.
Schools of the future should be centered on ideas and coherence in order to develop the soft skills that will enable humans to sift through and make sense of data downloaded to them. In doing so, we are able to transcend our weaknesses by using tech and all the information we consume to address higher order, existential needs.
As a minimalist being stuck on lock down, I sure have been blessed with so much free time to learn and do new things I would not normally do if life was still the way it was pre-COVID-19. I’ve been reading and learning a lot about how this pandemic will change the future of work and the changes we have to go through to remain functional as a society. With social distancing and remote work being practiced globally, the imminent use of AI in all aspects of our lives will be accelerated in the coming months. Aside from the fact that AIs won’t be infected with the virus, it is the most cost-efficient way to ensure business continuity especially for companies who heavily rely on processes that can be automated like book-keeping, proofreading, transportation services, and many others. Although despite that, I still believe that AI will not be able to take over most of the jobs known to man because there are still a lot of things they cannot do that require humanistic qualities.
Since the beginning of time, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been portrayed as humanity’s greatest enemy. We are threatened by their existence because they are everything we are not – objective, obedient, stoic. People have a hard time becoming those three things because we are highly emotional beings. In the work setting, showing too much feelings is frowned upon because it is a sign of instability and helplessness. Not gaining control of ones’ emotions is a sign of incompetence because we tend to be irrational and unproductive when our moods take over. At the end of the day, our employers just need results – nothing personal, it’s just business.
However, I believe our feelings and emotions are not a disadvantage because it is for this reason that we continue searching for better and greater things. Humanity’s drive for growth and excellence are the reasons why we came up with AI to begin with. People want more output in a shorter amount of time so they can do more meaningful things outside of work, like spending time with family and honing a creative skill. As time progresses and AIs become more sophisticated, we will learn what things they can do better than us. We should not see this as a negative situation where they will eventually take over our jobs and the world. Instead, we should see this as an opportunity to evolve into higher, more complex human beings.
For people to grow into more multi-faceted and multi-talented beings, there is a need to revamp and overhaul the educational system to teach them how to best use their emotions in more strategic and productive ways. We would normally deal with our feelings in disparaging methods, thereby making us useless and dysfunctional. While it is part of human nature, it is the role of educational systems to future-proof humans by teaching us how to re-channel that emotional energy into improving global well-being. People should be taught how to manage and understand their emotions so they can have control and clarity on the effects it has on our lives and how it can be used as opportunities for growth. Having that ability to dissect and understand emotions will enable us to better manage our personal well-being while also allowing us to look for creative, human-centered solutions to global problems. In doing so, we ensure that the things we are doing and the jobs we are generating are indispensable and purposeful.
AIs will not eliminate all meaningful jobs because it is us, humans, who put meaning and value in jobs. Meaningfulness, like feelings, is subjective. If we feel that what we are doing is still needed by society and no other person (or robot) can do it better than us, then that just shows how important our work is. Humanity’s ever-changing needs and wants dictate what is deemed essential in the world, and if we upgrade our capabilities and skills depending on that, we will never be replaceable and useless. As long as we put global well-being at the core of what we do, we will always find ways to stay relevant and needed.
In a span of just a month, minimalism has tremendously improved the quality of my life. Allan is the primary witness of these changes that he even pointed out in one of our conversations that I’m starting to live like Tim Ferris (huge compliment, if you ask me). I became aware of Tim Ferris through Allan because he kept raving about how Ferris has learned so many new skills by reverse engineering and automating processes of these regular tasks to become productive in more value-adding aspects of his life. Minimalism, in a way, is one of the hacks that I feel can help a person become more productive. By removing all the distractions and clutter in your life, you are able to allocate most of your bandwidth on more important things.
And so yesterday, we started his journey to minimalism, starting off with his clothes. Days before our decluttering weekend, I asked him to start pondering on these things:
his wardrobe’s theme/color scheme
what events/occasions he sees himself attending within the year
Answering these were no-brainers. We have very similar tastes in clothing, so the answer to the first item will be white, gray, and black. As for the second point, we’ll pretty much be going to the same occasions as we’re each other’s +1s.
With these in mind, shortlisting his stuff was manageable. Here’s a pre- and post declutter photo of his closet:
Before decluttering, he had shirts and pants hung outside his closet, and the doors are so hard to close as it was literally overflowing with clothes that haven’t been used over the years. It may look like we just neatly folded his shirts, but for your perspective, we actually got rid of a bed-full of old clothes. Here’s a photo of the minimized pile, placed right beside his bed for size impression:
He’s super happy with the turnout of this decluttering process that he’s even considering shooting his video courses here instead of renting a studio which would cost him a few thousand bucks. Today, he said it was so easy to dress up and decide what clothes to wear as his closet is now easier to navigate; he doesn’t need to dig through the pile of clothes he hasn’t used for many years now. What was left are the pieces he sees himself wearing everyday and in the next 90 days.
This exercise, he said, has made his room more liveable that he wants to declutter the rest of his items. I’m actually excited to help him out again as I’ve started to find decluttering a very therapeutic exercise. We’ll both work on the next phases, and I’ll update my blog once we find the time again. 😎
I’ve dabbled with the minimalist lifestyle since 2014, but it was only a month ago when I had the courage to live and breathe it. I started with decluttering my stuff, aiming to own a maximum of 500 items, including my car, undergarments, shoes, books – basically, everything. I purged more than 50% of my belongings in a span of three weeks with the end goal of getting more sleep on a weekday.
It has been a month since I did this exercise, and I’ve been seeing nothing but positive changes in my life. Not only was I able to get more sleep; I also had more time to do things I’ve always felt were impossible to achieve before. I’ve had the time to reflect on my life so far, leading me to shortlist 2 things I’ve learned from my month of minimalism:
Time is the only asset that will make us rich.
We’ve all been brainwashed to believe that money is the only thing that can augment the quality of our life. Most of us do this by buying things. I know this because I was in the exact same situation. During my early 20s, I used to hoard clothes and shoes to impress my colleagues and be the trendiest person in the office. It came to a point wherein it took me almost 2hrs to just prepare to work. My mornings were spent thinking about how it wouldn’t be obvious to my co-workers that I repeated the same shirt from last week. It was hella stressful, I swear.
But now that I’ve significantly cherry-picked my wardrobe to just the essentials, I can finish prepping in a matter of 20mins. Since I started trimming down my stuff, I have more time to do things that add more value to my life. I’ve been exercising, reading, writing, and even interacting with people who share the same passions before my 8am call time to work.
This time surplus has made me richer, qualitatively-speaking. My wealth is now defined by having a healthy, meaningful lifestyle aligned to my values and the things I deeply care about. I’m improving myself and the different aspects of my life with the endgoal of helping and becoming more valuable to the people around me.
We are all equally given 24 hours in a day to do the things we want. If spent wisely and meaningfully, I’m sure we won’t be living in regret. Money is only an added bonus; it won’t even be used if we don’t have time spend it.
Decision-making is now easier because I know who I am and who I’m not.
A major pre-requisite of my minimalist journey was establishing my taste based on my personality and values. Because I’ve set a system to identify what best represents me as an individual, it’s now easier for me to make decisions especially those involving material things.
During a workshop I attended for work a few weeks back, the concept of decision fatigue was brought up. The speaker mentioned that we make approximately 35,000 decisions on a normal day. Unfortunately, the quality of our decisions degrade as we go about the day because we get tired physically and mentally. Studies also show that major decisions are best done in the morning because that’s when we are in out optimal mental and physical state.
The fact that I have significantly improved on my morning rituals is a very comforting feeling because I know I’m saving my best self to things that matter most. I’m reserving my precious human bandwidth in making the best decisions for my work and education.
In just a matter of 4 weeks, I already felt notable improvements in my life – I have deeper conversations with friends, I sleep better and exercise more frequently, I get to enrich myself by listening to podcasts and reading books/essays/articles that will help me become better in my craft. By owning less material things, we are given the chance to allocate our time, money, and energy on relevant, memorable, non-depreciable stuff that we can take with us even to our deathbed – relationships, health, passions.
Done with my clothes, done with my shoes. This morning, I decluttered all remaining stuff that are just gathering dust in my room. The task was actually simpler and easier compared to the first two, partly because getting rid of stuff that aren’t useful is a no-brainer.
While I was gathering all my things from all corners of my room, I was trying to recall why I even bought them in the first place (please refer to the GIF below). What automatically came into mind was my attempt to start a collection or have some decorations in my room. I realized these reasons are just plain illogical and mundane. I felt deceived – I spent my hard-earned money on such useless, depreciating stuff that I could’ve used for a vacation somewhere or even deposited in my trust fund.
With this in mind, I immediately dove into my shortlisting:
ACCESSORIES: Watches & Jewelry
Women my age would normally have more than 1 pair of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. But for me, I haven’t been (and am not planning to) buy those diamonds. I have nothing against those who do opposite. I’ve just been more practical and secure as I’ll feel like I’m in danger all the time. I don’t plan to be mugged again, and don’t want to potentially put myself in debt. So no, thank you.
Currently, I have 9 watches and 10 pieces of jewelry. I only use here my pearl earrings and black watches, so it was pretty easy to trim it down. Here’s how it looks like now:
What’s good about these chosen pieces is that it also matches my neutral wardrobe. This saves me so much time again as basically I have no other choice but these 5 items.
For someone who hates bringing bags, I have quite a lot. I have 17 bags for different occasions in different shapes, sizes, whatever. But examining this loot, the ones I regularly use can be counted in one hand.
From 17, I’m left with 6 – 1 backpack, 1 totebag, 2 satchels (small and medium), 1 carry on luggage, and 1 medium check-in (not in the photo). Each has a purpose in my life, and there are no “just-in-case” items.
BOOKS & MUSIC STUFF
Just like any other person, I feel this high whenever I see the spines of my CDs and books neatly lined up on my shelf. Unfortunately, this feeling is also temporary. After that fleeting moment, I go back to my normal routine and forget that I even own those items.
I checked out our ceiling-to-floor shelf here in my room and I tried to recall which books and CDs are actually mine (meaning I bought with my own money or given to me). I can only pinpoint 26 books and 30 CDs/music-related items. Here’s how it looks like pre- and post-declutter:
For my CDs, I just kept with me all old Incubus records (Fungus Amongus, Enjoy Incubus, SCIENCE and Make Yourself) because Brandon Boyd wahahahaha. Good thing I have my 120GB iPod Classic so just in case I feel like giving these up again, I’ll just burn and upload it.
As for the books, I only left with me those I haven’t finished yet. The rest are up for grabs. I’ll post in a different entry all the items I’m selling/giving away 🙂
For these items, shortlisting my toiletries was too easy since my hygiene/kikay routine has been minimalist ever since – wash, exfoliate, moisturize, brush teeth, take a bath. I don’t wear makeup (therefore I don’t own one) so this was not much of a hassle.
I just removed all redundant items like the lotions, EDTs, and the depilatories. I don’t need to have more than one of those all at the same time.
GADGETS & SCHOOL SUPPLIES
This was harder to trim down as most of the things here I use daily – laptop, cords, pens, notebooks, powerbank, USB sticks, etc. I have approximately 20 pens, 5 USBs, 6 notebooks, 2 powerbanks, 1 laptop, 4 cords, and 3 wall chargers.
For this declutter process, I used the same principle as the one for the consumables. I just let go of the double-count items like my the pens and USBs since these can be easily bought and replaced. Obviously, I did not let go of the cords as my other gadgets will not be functional without it. Here’s the before-after photo:
I’m left with just 1 pen, 4 notebooks, 1 powerbank, 1 USB (since I have a hard drive anyway). This is my EDC on a working day. Now that I’ve trimmed it down to just the essentials, my bag will be so much lighter it won’t be a pain on my shoulder.
I’ve been collecting Legos since I started working, mainly driven by nostalgia and guilt for not taking care of my toys when I was a kid. When I started earning my own money, I said to myself this is my chance to experience the things I took for granted when I was young. I bought so many Legos everytime I had the extra money. And Legos are not cheap, mind you. Those Minifigures actually cost Php300 each. I could’ve used that to buy 3 cups of coffee each time I work/study out of home.
Buying and playing with the Legos made me happy for just 5 minutes. After I’m done with the assembling, the feeling just fleets away like nothing happened. Same as my book and CD collection, I love seeing them all displayed on my shelf. But after staring at them, I never even bothered playing with it.
These realizations made me want to get rid of them already so I won’t have that sayang feeling anymore. Examining my collection, I only left with me those that are useful and have sentimental value. From a whopping count of 34, I’m down to just 9 (7 here at home, 2 in the office).
I left my Lego calendar, Lego cardholder, Gundam model kit, Ironman Funkopop, Lego Cars , and the Starwars minifigures for my desk to still have a bit of color and life.
Whew. I can’t believe it’s done. Checking the running count of all my belongings, I did not achieve the 500 as expected. I actually did better than expected!
Apparently, I just own ~650 items, including my car. With the 3-phase decluttering process, I was able to get rid of almost 60% of my stuff. I’m down to 274. The arbitrary number I set early on, which was 500, was not much of a difference from my starting point. I guess I should’ve inventoried everything from the very start. But hey, this is not bad at all. I’m very very happy with the outcome as I’m left only with items that have meaning and purpose in my life.
In all minimalist blogs, podcasts, articles I’ve read, the concept that was consistently brought up was keeping only things that add value to your life. Ideally, these should make your lifestyle more efficient and effective so you’ll have more human bandwidth to allocate on things that matter most to you, like your passions, health, relationships, etc. Clearly, that Lego Shell truck was not able to contribute anything to my overall improvement as a person. It just gave me temporary happiness, and I felt that for a mere 5 mins while I was building it. All these realizations just made me even more determined to fix this part of my lifestyle. I want to be more intentional in all my actions. I want to put more meaning in my life by exposing myself in things that will contribute to my passions – music and marketing.
So what’s next? I’ll continue giving music marketing advices on Quora to widen my network in the industry, and Allan has agreed for me to help him declutter his wardrobe. So excited. 🙂